DINER: Ex-Wildebeest Chef David Gunawan To Open “Farmer’s Apprentice” Next Month
by Andrew Morrison | There was much rumbling and rumour over the winter about former Wildebeest chef David Gunawan going out on his own to open a new restaurant in the old Che Baba Cantina spot at Fraser and Kingsway. Unfortunately for that neighbourhood, it all fell through. The good news is that he and girlfriend Dara Young have now secured the tragically short-lived Pig & Mortar spot at 1529 West 6th between Fir and Granville. The restaurant – dubbed Farmer’s Apprentice (I love that name) – will seat between 25-30 people and plate a daily constructed menu based on whatever the farmers might deliver that day. That should translate into about 9-10 dishes, plus 2-3 desserts. Cool concept. Giddy-up.
Gunawan tells me that it will have a vegetable focus, but that it won’t be strictly vegetarian. He puts the philosophy thusly: “Good accessible food is more than just a convergence of technique and fertile soil—it derives from the passions of the people who are working toward it. Our approach is a modern interpretation of ecological gastronomy. Ingredients are sourced selectively and cultivated at the peak of their flavours and integrity. The menu traces seasonal variations and changes as frequently as nature permits. Our intention is to endorse young agrarians and food sovereignty through creativity.” He also quotes American man of letters (and noted farmer) Wendell Berry: “The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”
The location is a bit of a destination and South Granville has long had a bad habit of killing new restaurants with the sharp blade of residential indifference, but considering how well Gunawan did at Wildebeest (it was just named the year’s “Best New Restaurant” at the Van Mag awards) and that many in the community will remember him from his time at nearby West, you have to think that name recognition will generate plenty of curiosity out of the gate. This is also his first time as an owner, so I expect he’ll be swinging for the fences with especially tasty results.
If all goes according to plan and enough of us cross our fingers at the same time, the fully licensed Farmer’s Apprentice will open in late June for lunch and dinner.