By Joanne Sasvari
Keep going. Over the train tracks. Past the North Shore Auto Mall. Towards the giant Seaspan crane towering above the North Vancouver shoreline. Through the industrial park and across from the high school. And there it is, chocolaty nirvana, in one of the most unlikely locations you could expect.
This is the bijou little shop of master chocolatier and pastry chef Thomas Haas. If you’ve arrived after, say, 10 am, chances are good that there’s a lineup of people waiting for his croissants and cappuccinos and the gorgeous chocolates glittering in the glass case like cacao-scented jewels. Don’t worry, just get in line: everything here is worth the wait.
If it’s really busy, Haas himself might pop out to visit. Perhaps he’ll hand around some of his rich, dark “sparkle cookies,” which have been named among the best in the world by Saveur, The Los Angeles Times and The Vancouver Sun. At the very least he’ll stop for a smile and a chat.
Hass, you see, is a man who has found his happy place here on Vancouver’s North Shore.
He’s a fourth generation pastry chef, born in the Black Forest and trained in Germany. He got his experience at Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe before landing in Vancouver, where he worked at the Four Seasons before jetting off to New York to become executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s Park Avenue restaurant, Daniel, in 1998. While he was there, both Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazine named him among the Top 10 chefs in North America.
In 2000, Haas returned to Vancouver and started his own business. Now, no special event in the city is complete without his handmade chocolates.
And what chocolates they are. There are truffles, caramels and chocolate bars, all made from the finest ingredients sourced from around the world. There are chocolates filled with fresh fruit, such as passion fruit and Tahitian vanilla, or nutty delights, like hazelnut praline, or exotic spices such as ancho chilies. The hardest part is deciding which to indulge in. Our solution? Try them all, then go back for seconds.
Now Haas’s influence has spread beyond his own shop. For four years, a rising chef named Steven Hodge worked alongside Haas; now he’s opened his own gourmet pastry and chocolate shop, Temper, in West Vancouver’s Dundarave Village.
For Hodge, it was a real homecoming: He grew up in Dundarave, but trained in California where he worked for eight years before returning briefly, then headed off to London where he worked in famous restaurants, including Gordon Ramsay’s Three-Michelin-starred Royal Hospital Road, for three years. In 2008, he returned to join Thomas Haas and perfect his skills.
Now he makes beautifully rich cakes and pastries, chocolates and treats – and adds one more delicious reason to visit the North Shore.
Unit 128, 998 Harbourside Dr., North Vancouver, 604-924-1847
2409 Marine Dr., West Vancouver, 604-281-1152