The Chef of the Year, Robert Belcham Of Fuel & Campagnolo
Once out of his Peace River high school, Robert Belcham moved to Victoria, BC, where, after training at Camosun College, he got his start in the industry toiling at Rebar, one of Canada’s most celebrated vegetarian restaurants. He then followed an opportunity at the island’s Aerie Resort, and shortly thereafter became its executive sous chef. To further sharpen his skills, Belcham spent a year as chef de partie at Thomas Keller’s famous Californian restaurant, The French Laundry, and stayed on in Silicon Valley for another two years to work as a private chef. In 2002, he returned to Canada and joined the team at “C” Restaurant, rising to the position of chef de cuisine two years later. He opened Fuel with one of his best friends, sommelier Tom Doughty, in 2007. The restaurant claimed the Best New Fine Dining award at that year’s Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. His second restaurant, the casual Italian-themed Campagnolo, opened in the winter of 2008. He is this year’s Vancouver magazine Chef of the Year.
The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Default drink of choice: Coca Cola.
Drink you’ll never have again: My grandfathers dandelion wine.
The one place you’d move to: Vancouver Island.
Favourite wine varietal: Riesling.
The person you can imitate: Michael at the Swiss Bakery.
Beer of choice: Propeller.
The best thing about your job: Learning.
Book you’re reading: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Last place traveled: Seattle.
Biggest fear: Sharks.
Dead film actor you wish was still making pictures: Paul Newman.
Best sneaker in the world: Tie. Chuck Taylors and Vans.
Place in BC that you love escaping to: My Backyard.
Your mentors: Robert Clark, Thomas Keller.
What are you proud of: My son.
The thing that makes you the angriest: Ignorance and apathy.
Saddest thing about Vancouver: No one likes to take responsibility for anything.
Most challenging thing about living in Vancouver: Traffic.
Favourite restaurant in Vancouver: Moderne Burger
Talent you wish you possessed: Three point shot.
Musical instrument you long to play: Harmonica.
Sport you gave up: Football.
Foreign politician you most admire: I do not admire politicians, foreign or domestic. They Lie.
The game you’re best at: Roshambo.
Three songs on your current playlist: Snow from The Pack A.D., Thirteen from Jonny Cash , Horse Thief from The Smalls.
Somewhere within an hour of Vancouver that few may have heard about but is worth checking out: Golden Ears Park.
The number of fist fights you’ve been in: Too many.
The scariest situation you’ve ever been in: I got lost at Klondike days when I was 4 years old. Still remember it vividly.
Three things of no monetary value that you will keep until you die: Dignity, tattoos and knives.
BC chef that you admire most: Michel Jacob, 30 years and still on top.
The thing you’re ashamed of: Being a picky eater as a young man.
Best concert experience ever: SNFU, multi purpose rumpus room, 1989, Edmonton AB. They condemned that venue the following day.
Aspect of your personality you wish you could change: I would like to fly off the handle more [ed note: best answer to this question yet].
How you waste time at work: By working.
The thing you wished people cared more about: Where their food comes from.
The dish you’re most proud of: The last one made.
The thing that makes you the most nervous: Watching a really green cook use a knife.
Town you were born in: Edmonton.
Old television shows you can tolerate re-runs of: The Flintstones
Album that first made you love music: Kenny Rogers, The Gambler.
Default junk food of choice: I just discovered Tim Tams. Where have you been all of my life?
The career path you considered but never followed: Architect.
The one country that you have no interest in ever visiting: Sierra Leone.
Your top three films of all time: Aliens, Apocalypse Now, Near Dark.
The first three things you do every morning: shower, get dressed, drive to work.
The thing you’re addicted to: Work.
Favourite book as a child: Go Dog Go.
This is the 42nd interview of what will eventually amount to 500 profiles of people who have made life in BC that much more interesting. At the rate we’re going it’ll take three years, at which time we’ll probably just start shooting for 1,000.