Chef of the Year 2015

A patient restaurateur is finallly recognized as top chef Vancouver

April 21, 2015

There are few local faces to which this magazine can devote its cover and expect a degree of recognition equal to Hollywood royalty. Yet when Vikram Vij’s larger-than-life visage beamed from newsstands in October of last year, he may as well have been George Clooney: his face is its own brand, and readers responded with a happy affection (“Ah, Vikram!”). No one in Vancouver dining is as identifiable as Vij.

So why hadn’t he been the recipient of this award before? And why now? To the former: we have no idea. (Our judges move in mysterious ways.) To the latter: we refer you to the former, but we like to think he simply could no longer be denied. Maybe it was because Vij had never felt so present as he did in 2014—which is saying a hell of a lot.

While his long-running Vij’s and Rangoli continued to uphold their shared reputation for offering the most transcendent Indian food in the city (see Best Indian, pg. 78), he opened a third, My Shanti, last June. Much has been written about My Shanti’s unlikely location (in a Surrey strip mall) and its knowingly audacious appearance (one word: silver); somewhat lost amidst those talking points has been the food. (Our judges happen to think quite highly of it; again, see pg. 78.) Shortly thereafter, he debuted as the newest juror on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, thus becoming familiar to millions. And almost simultaneously, it was announced that finally, after endless speculation, Vij’s would move in 2015 from its current home to that long-dormant space on Cambie Street, while the vacated West 11th room would transform into Mian Bawarchi. (As a result, in March he announced his departure from Dragons’ Den, so as to fully concentrate on the restaurants.)

In the end, it would appear that sheer busyness finally netted Vij (and, let’s not forget, partner Meeru Dhalwala) this accolade. It was undoubtedly a contributing factor. But it only served to underline years upon years of culinary inventiveness that make us feel, frankly, rather silly for not honouring him sooner.

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