The chef behind LeTigre and Torafuku shares his culinary school disasters and triumphs

An interview with alumnus chef Clement Chan in honour of VCC's 50th anniversary

October 27, 2015

By Ashley Sparrow / Photo: Fahim Kassam

Since 1965, Vancouver Community College has fostered countless artisans who have gone on to influence the culinary scene of our city. In honour of this institution’s 50th anniversary, the VCC Foundation will be hosting a gala entitled “50 Years. 50 Chefs,” with net proceeds going toward VCC scholarships and bursary funds. The 50 chefs among this group include VCC’s highest-achieving students, faculty members, and alumni, who will be presenting their gastronomical masterpieces for guests to consume (or devour). One such alumnus is Clement Chan, co-owner and chef of Le Tigre food truck and Torafuku. This culinary dynamo, known for his contemporary mash-ups of Asian flavours and West Coast concepts, talks about his disasters and triumphs while studying at VCC.

How did you end up at culinary school? I was working at my grandma’s restaurant at the time and it piqued my interest. I also thought it would be an easier route than finishing college or transferring to university. Boy, was I wrong.

Who was your most inspiring (or enviable) classmate? Jason Harris (executive sous chef, Fairmont Vancouver Airport) while I was doing my apprenticeship at VCC. I was lucky because he’s one of my best friends and considered him as a great rival in class because he consistently had the highest mark, so I would always try to one-up him.

Who was your favourite teacher? Mr. Hutton. I was going through some family problems at the time, and I wasn’t doing so well in school… but he saw potential and pushed me hard. He even hooked me up with a job at Urban Fare.

Did you have a job while in school? Earls on Kingsway, washing dishes.

What was your worst injury? Being burned by a hot pan with hot oil in it because the cook didn’t hear me say “Behind!”

What was your worst cooking disaster? Forgetting to close the valve on the deep fryer when I was cleaning it.

What was your first triumphant dish? My chicken scaloppine with tomato sauce in block 12 (at VCC).

What was the harshest criticism you received? That I would never make it as a cook/chef, let alone own my own businesses.

What was the hardest technique to master? I don’t think it was so much techniques that I had problems mastering. I had problems being patient, and great things take time.

What do you miss about being a student in culinary school? The instructors; they took a lot of their own time to groom me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their passion.

 

50 Years. 50 Chefs.,
November 17, 7pm-11pm

Tickets: $300, 604-871-7067 
Rocky Mountaineer Station, 1755 Cottrell Street 

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