Hometown: Louvain la Neuve, Belgium
Occupation: Chef and co-owner, Chambar
Years worked as a chef: 25
Years lived in Vancouver: 13
Accolades: Golden Plate Award for Best Restaurant Overall, Georgia Straight (2008-present)
Best Restaurant Overall, Westender (2014)
Chef of the Year, Vancouver Magazine (2011)
Best New Restaurant, Vancouver Courier and Georgia Straight (2005)
What do you love best about Vancouver’s food scene?
That people are brave enough to open original concepts, rather than “West Coast” or something copied from another city.
Name the top restaurants and dishes that you think every visitor to Vancouver should try.
Toshi’s: a great sushi restaurant on 16th and Main Street with a line-up, but worth the wait. The miso eggplant is amazing, as is the salmon box roll.
Le Petit Saigon: a little out of downtown, but a great place for pho. I’m generally not a fan of fried food, but their spring rolls are exceptional.
La Taqueria: hole in the wall Mexican with delicious beef tongue tacos.
Au Comptoir: great authentic French café. I like the bavette pommes dauphines on their dinner menu. It’s such classic French fare.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Vancouver.
Breakfast at Thomas Haas—great coffee and croissants.
Lunch at Le Petit Saigon.
Afternoon beer on the patio at Havana.
Dinner at Maenam.
Drinks at Bao Bei.
Late night drinks at The Alexander.
Editor’s note: Since publication of this interview, The Alexander has closed.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
Chinatown. It’s filled with food I don’t cook.
If you had to pick one personal favorite at Chambar, which would it be and why?
The lamb tagine. It’s one of our classic dishes that has been on our menu since opening 10 years ago, and it still sells out every night. It’s unique; you won’t find another dish exactly like it anywhere in the city.
What other cuisines do you enjoy eating and cooking most?
I enjoy Indian food and would probably suggest Tandoori Palace on Commercial Drive.
What food is your guilty pleasure, and where do you go to get it?
I don’t have a guilty pleasure dish. Scotch is my guilty pleasure.
What’s one dish in Vancouver that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?
There are a lot of dishes I have respect for and you wonder how you can work from that idea. Meat & Bread does a great porchetta sandwich.
Are there any foods or ingredients you absolutely will not eat?
Since Eats Abroad is geared toward travelers, are there any favorite restaurants or bars at YVR or the city’s hotels that you particularly like?
To be honest, I’d rather stay in a shack on the beach or a remote cabin. Our proximity to nature is one of the best things about B.C.
Where do you like to go for a drink?
Are there any foods native to Vancouver or B.C. that you particularly like and that visitors should seek out?
A friend makes the most amazing candied salmon using a First Nation’s recipe. Wild spot prawns and B.C.-made moose jerky are also musts for local fare.
Finally, what would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving Vancouver?
Get out of the city! There is so much to see and do within an hour drive of here: check out the mountains or get out on the water and see the coastline.
Chef Schuermans’s Shortlist:
Chambar, 568 Beatty Street (Downtown); Belgian, breakfast and lunch Monday–Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday–Sunday.
Toshi Sushi, 181 East 16th Avenue (Mount Pleasant); Japanese, dinner only Tuesday–Saturday, closed Sunday–Monday.
Le Petit Saigon, 2783 East Hastings Street (Hastings-Sunrise); Vietnamese, lunch and dinner daily.
La Taqueria, 322 West Hastings Street (Downtown); Mexican, lunch only Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Second location: 2549 Cambie Street (Mount Pleasant); lunch daily, dinner Monday–Saturday.
Third location: 1305 Welch Street, North Vancouver, B.C.; lunch only daily.
Fourth location: 586 Hornby Street (Downtown); lunch daily, dinner Monday–Saturday.
Au Comptoir, 2278 West 4th Avenue (Kitsilano); French, breakfast and dinner Wednesday-Monday, lunch Wednesday-Friday and Monday, brunch Saturday-Sunday, closed Tuesday.
Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie, 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver, B.C.; chocolates and pastries, open Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Second location: 2539 West Broadway (Kitsilano); open Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Havana, 1212 Commercial Drive (Grandview-Woodland); new Latin, lunch and dinner daily.
Maenam, 1938 West 4th Avenue (Kitsilano); Thai, lunch Tuesday-Saturday, dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Bao Bei, 163 Keefer Street (Chinatown); Chinese, dinner only Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Alexander Gastown, 91 Powell Street (Gastown); bar and live music venue, open Thursday-Saturday nights.
Tandoori Palace, 1439 Commercial Drive (Grandview-Woodland); Indian, lunch and dinner daily.
Meat & Bread, 370 Cambie Street (Gastown); sandwiches, lunch only Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Second location: 1033 West Pender Street (Coal Harbour); lunch only Monday-Friday, closed Saturday-Sunday.
L’Abattoir, 217 Carrall Street (Gastown); French, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Fortune Sound Club, 147 East Pender Street (Chinatown); live music venue, check events schedule for opening hours.
About the Chef: Australia had been the original goal for Chef Nico Schuermans and his wife, Karri. After marrying in Belgium, the two intended to work in Canada for a season before returning to the country where they first met. But one season became two, and they found themselves falling in love with Vancouver and its people. Vancouver ultimately became a more attractive option than Australia, and before they knew it, they opened Belgian bistro Chambar.
Schuermans describes his food as “ballsy and very flavor forward,” and Chambar’s menu features Belgian classics like moules frites, as well as Indian and Mediterranean-influenced dishes. Much in the way Vancouver won over the Schuermans, Chambar has won over the city’s diners throughout the past decade with its high-end fare and its casual, yet upscale, ambience.