Sean Heather’s Empire Scores Rob Belcham’s Creative Chops…

September 9, 2010.
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Sean Heather (left) at his Gastown headquarters with Campagnolo & Refuel chef/co-owner Robert Belcham

by Andrew Morrison | Robert Belcham, award-winning chef/co-owner of Fuel, Campagnolo and The Cure, has handshaked a deal with Sean Heather to oversee his multiple Gastown menus, including those at Salt Tasting Room, The Irish Heather, The Everything Cafe, Judas Goat and Fetch.

With the recent exit of chef Lee Humphries, there was a need to fill a hole at the top, not so much in day to day operations on the various lines, but rather in the realm of creative menu development (we’re happy to also report that Humphries has since landed as the new chef at “C”).

“We’ve been friends for a few years,” Belcham told me yesterday over a bottle at The Irish Heather. “I respect Sean as a businessman a lot. The guy spins gold out of shit”. He jokes, adding “I mean, who opens a fucking restaurant in Blood Alley with no chef?” Fair point. He seems to be stoked to be tasked with helping to re-craft a pub menu (“I’ve loved pubs since the day I was allowed to drink”), but I suspect it’s the prospect of fiddling with Judas Goat that excites him most. The new Blood Alley joint is basically an amuse bouche operation – churning out a kaleidoscope of tiny plates that are big on flavour – a prospect sure to give any creative mind the raging jollies.

Lovers of Campagnolo and Refuel shouldn’t fret. Belcham’s involvement in the Heather Empire won’t be a day to day thing. It’s a consultative gig only. His job will be to help create dishes that will meet costs and then train staff to execute them consistently (I’m told that his partners Tom Doughty and Tim Pittman are wholly supportive).

“Every menu that Sean has will have my finger in it. I hope to come in with a fresh perspective on the pub-style menus and the tapas-style menus”. All will roll out simultaneously at some point in October. Naturally, there will be certain dishes that will have to stay (for instance, the much loved pot pie at the Irish Heather), but beyond that, I believe it’s carte blanche. “We’re actually talking about doing more pot pies,” Belcham says, “and a lot more seafood – because we’re on the coast.”

“For a long time I’ve tried to diversify,” says Heather. “I don’t want people to think I’m just a pint-puller from Ireland. There are a lot of ideas that come out of this Irish head.” This, without question, is another good one.

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