Chef Ken Nakano has taken over as the new executive chef at the Inn at Laurel Point. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Chef Ken Nakano has taken over as the new executive chef at the Inn at Laurel Point. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Culinary powerhouse taking over at Inn at Laurel Point

Chef Ken Nakano draws inspiration from childhood, Asian cuisine and local producers

Having spent many a weekend foraging for food and helping his mom in the garden growing up, Chef Ken Nakano said it’s only natural he ended up with a culinary career and a passion for local ingredients and sustainability.

It is this childhood experience, along with his Japanese heritage and a 20-year culinary background that Nakano brings to the Inn at Laurel Point.

Nakano grew up in Vancouver, with an avid outdoorsman for a father and an incredible cook for a mother. On weekends, their extended family would gather and go hunting for blackberries, fiddle heads, mushrooms and clams. When Nakano and his cousins had gathered enough, he said they would be rewarded with a picnic and time to play.

Power Bowl is one of Inn at Laurel Point’s new brunch menu items. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

At home, the focus on food continued.

“My mother had a fantastic garden,” Nakano said. “I remember coming back from Jericho Beach with wheelbarrows of seaweed in the spring to put in the garden and my friends having no idea what was going on,” he said chuckling. In the fall, it was the same but with fallen leaves.

Nakano’s parents immigrated from Japan and raised their children to both celebrate and respect food. Meal time was extremely important and Nakano said it taught him a love for structure and cooking – two things he carries with him today.

Nakano’s mother cooked primarily Japanese dishes but, growing up in a culturally-rich neighbourhood, Nakano said he had the privilege of tasting all kinds of authentic dishes from all over the world.

Seafood Benny. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

When he graduated high school, Nakano gathered all those experiences and influences and headed to culinary school. From there he steadily climbed, taking on executive chef roles at multiple prestigious hotel restaurants, including the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.

Looking back now, Nakano said the key to his success has been mentorship.

“Having that level of personal communication, reassurance and encouragement was key,” he said. “In the young days, that will make or break somebody.”

Little mentorship exists for the challenge he faces now though – taking over a hotel restaurant amidst a global pandemic.

“We’re trying to think of ways that people can feel comfortable using our services and our products,” Nakano said. The Inn launched a new curbside pickup on Nov. 26 for its made-in-house holiday sweets and Nakano said depending on how that goes they would like to extend the pickup to menu bundles like ‘dinner for two.’

Eggnog ganache stuffed ginger cookies and house-made chocolate bars, among other treats, can be pre-ordered at laurelpoint.com.

Chicken and Pancakes.(Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

The Inn is also relaunching its weekend brunch menu from Dec. 5 to Jan. 3, where items such as Seafood Benny, Chicken and Pancakes and Veggie Flatbread can be enjoyed. The restaurant space, Aura, is one of several parts of the Inn that has undergone a complete makeover in the last couple of years. The transformation was the final stage in renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson’s 1989 plan for the harbour-front property.

For now, Nakano said the focus is on getting the Inn through the pandemic with what he describes as an already excellent menu. But, in the future, he’s excited to develop relationships with more local producers and introduce new foods into the Inn’s repertoire.


 

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