We’ve been fans of Wild Rice since it opened way back in 2001. Over the years it has proven to be one of the most consistent restaurants in town, staying true to owner Andrew Wong’s original concept of a restaurant that was modern and open in design and outlook (both gastronomic and environmental) but true to his Chinese heritage. And as a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table, it has been a leader in sustainability since long before it was sexy. Behind the consistency is the chef, Todd Bright, whose passion for local product and unique preparations are deliciously evident on the plate, 7 nights a week. Wild Rice expanded this time last year by opening a new location in the revamped River Market out in New Westminister. Bright came on as a chef/partner in the new enterprise, which is to say we’re very grateful that he took time he couldn’t spare to answer the following questions…
Where did you go to school? Toowoomba, Australia.
If you had a motto, what would it be? Work hard, play harder.
What’s the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? I love chicken skin! I know lots of people are opposed to eating poultry skin for health reasons these days, but it’s the best part.
What ingredient grosses you out the most: We would never use this at Wild Rice, but you know what natural raspberry flavouring is made of right? Natural raspberry flavor, or castoreum, comes from the anal extracts of a North American beaver.
Default drink of choice: Beer — anything local and cold.
What are you the most proud of: I’m really proud of the team we have built at Wild Rice, and that we get to be part of the River Market renewal process.
What are you the least proud of: I’m the least proud of not being able to answer this question honestly.
Your favourite smells: Roasted chicken stock is pretty awesome.
Your least favourite smells: The smell of something burning. I hate the smell of something burning!
Your chef role models: Neil Perry, Tetsuya, and Marco Pierre White.
Your favourite sound: I really like the sound of a busy restaurant. The roar of the hood vents, sizzling pans, communication from my crew, laughter and chatter from the dining room. It’s music to my ears!
Your least favourite sound: Dropped cutlery. It pings through the entire restaurant. It’s horrible.
The best way to die: Fat, happy and with no regrets.
The strangest talent that you possess: I’m pretty good at fighting dragons, but sadly only in video games.
The different career path that you could have gone on: I started out going to university to get my Bachelor of Information Technology, majoring in Business Software Development. Shockingly, it did not hold my interest.
Your three favourite films: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises…and if I’m allowed count all of those as one massive work of movie genius, I will add Gladiator and Braveheart.
Television show that you could tolerate re-runs of: The Simpsons or Kenny vs Spenny.
Wild Rice New West just turned one year old. What is the coolest thing you have discovered about New West during the past twelve months: It’s an incredibly welcoming community. I felt at home right away.
What inspiration do you take from your new digs out at River Market: I’m fortunate to have an amazing view of the Fraser River. In the Fall, with the low cloud cover over the water it looks so dark and cold. It’s cozy inside the restaurant and it makes me crave fall comfort foods like hearty soups, braised meats, and macaroni and cheese. I’ve incorporated some of those foods into the new menu.
The talent that you wish you possessed: I wish I could write creatively.
What is the game that you’re best at: Monopoly. But no one will play with me.
What is the one animal that scares you the most: Snakes.
Your favourite word: Platypus.
Your least favourite word: Sliders.
Your favourite curse word: There are a few potty mouths in the Wild Rice kitchens. They come up with some pretty original curse words that make me laugh.
One thing of no monetary value that you own and will keep dearly until you die: A letter from home.
Your first memory: Sitting in a puddle and eating mud.
The first album that made you love music: Green Day – Dookie. [listen]
The song that you could listen to on repeat for an hour: NOFX – The Decline. [listen]
Your favourite pre-shift River Market snack: Usually granola bars from Donald’s Market, but if I have time then a crêpe from Crepes des Amis hits the spot.
If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you: Brisbane, Australia.
Your go to, no-frills place for dinner in Vancouver: The Naam.
The strangest place you’ve ever been to: A bar on the roof of a ruined high rise building in Berlin.
The cliché in the kitchen that you overuse: “I’ll get to that.”