Lifetime Achievement Award 2016: John Bishop

A pioneer who transformed the restaurant industry in Vancouver forever

April 22, 2016

By Max Fawcett / Photo: Carlo Ricci

It’s one thing to be a master of your craft. It’s another thing altogether to actually have invented the craft itself. But that’s probably the best way to describe John Bishop and his influence on the food scene in his adopted hometown—and it’s why he’s the recipient of our 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. “He sets this watermark that nobody can fall below,” says Lee Man, a local food critic and Restaurant Awards judge who’s been eating at Bishop’s since he was a teenager in the mid-’80s. “He helped us understand that our local ingredients have worth and value, and that they’re just as good as anything else around the world.”

His influence on how that food is served is nearly as large—and, according to Restaurant Awards judge David Scholefield, nearly as unusual. “I could reel off a list of people who are offensive in the way that they try too hard. But it’s genuine with Bishop. And I learned a big lesson from that, because when you’re relaxed and totally at ease, food tastes better.” Lee Man agrees. “His style informs everything they do there. The immediate approach is warm, welcoming, and friendly, but there’s this backbone of technique and discipline. He shows that you can do that without being a jerk.”

Ironically, that temperament might help explain why Bishop doesn’t always get the recognition that he deserves. “He doesn’t put himself up for sale,” Man says. “And because of that, it’s easy to forget about him, because he’s a standard-bearer.” That standard, and the fact that it doesn’t need to be spoken—or shouted—out loud, might be Bishop’s biggest legacy of all. “He’s so good at what he does because it’s all understated,” Scholefield says. “But that doesn’t mean it’s less valuable. It might be more valuable.”

Get the Newsletter

Own your city with Vancouver’s thrice-weekly scoop on the latest restaurant news, must-shop hotspots and can’t miss events. Rest assured your email is safe with us.