‘The Arbor’ Chef Rob Clarke On The Joys Of Tacos & Making People Happy

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Seeing comfort food through a vegetarian lens has been done before, but we knew we were in for something special when the talented minds behind The Acorn decided to take on the task with their second vegetarian restaurant on Main Street, The Arbor. The meatless menu, developed and executed by chef Rob Clarke, uses only high quality ingredients to focus squarely on honest and classic comforts, everything from signature burgers and bowls of “broccoli popcorn” to indulgent riffs on decadent Mac & Cheese. This place knows how to make its customers happy, and it all starts in the kitchen. Put on your comfy pants and get cozy with…

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Your first memory? I’d have to say salmon fishing with my grandpa.

What neighbourhood do you live in and what makes it home? I live in the Moody Park area of New Westminster and my family makes it home.

Coffee or tea? I tend to go back and forth between the two but definitely right now it’s coffee.

Name every restaurant you’ve ever worked at in chronological order of appearance: Bishop’s, Pangaea (Toronto), Sooke Harbour House, The Acorn, The Arbor.

Describe the food concept at The Arbor in 10 words or less: Real food for comfort; familiar, fast casual, honest.

The cliché that you overuse? Work smarter not harder.

What keeps you up at night? Running through prep and order lists for the work the next day.

Dogs or cats? Cats.

Shoe of choice? Adidas.

Your role models? I’d have to say my grandma and grandpa. A lot of what I do and believe in with food goes back to spending time with them gardening and fishing.

Favourite Vancouver building? City Hall.

The thing that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? Tapatio flavoured Doritos.

The Vancouver restaurant you wish was open 24 hours? Sal y Limon. I LOVE TACOS!

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Dinner.

Which local restaurant kitchen do you envy the most? That’s tough because I love mine so much. I’ll go with Mak N Ming. I really like what they’re doing.

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First album that made you love music? “License to Ill” by The Beastie Boys.

What was the last live concert you saw? We catered a private event in which they had Patti Smith perform. That was awesome!

Your all-time best Halloween costume? “Where’s Waldo”. I’m pretty sure I made this popular for Halloween.

What game did you love as a kid? Road hockey. You couldn’t get me to come in for dinner. “CAR!!!”

Some people remember their first kiss, but could you tell us about your first knife? Global vegetable knife in culinary school.

The different career path that you could have gone on? You know, I always wanted to be a pilot.

Three films you would gladly watch again? The original Star Wars Trilogy and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Three favourite dishes in YVR? Salmonito burrito from The Fish Counter (the other Rob Clark is the chef); any of the tacos at Sal y Limon; fried chicken sandwich at Re-Up BBQ in New West.

Most memorable meal, from any time and place in the world, that you would love to replicate? An epic lunch I had at Le Bernardin in New York.

Non-vegetarian dish that you’d like to recreate sans meat? The smoked sablefish with potato brandade and herbed horseradish sabayon from Bishop’s restaurant. Classic!

Your guilty (non-food) pleasure? 80’s music.

Your most regrettable purchase ever? Can it be the most embarrassing?! Then it would be after having a few too many cervesas on the beach in Mexico and buying a hammock for my cat. To top it off, he never used it!

It’s five years ago. You just clocked out. Where to? The Black Hoof in Toronto.

It’s the end of a long day. What are you drinking? Beer.

Name the elusive ingredient that you would most like to tackle. Oxalis Tuberosa or Oca. It’s a perennial plant that overwinters as underground tubers. I’ve used it a few times but would love to spend more time with it. Think of it as a cross between radish and potato. Peppery and creamy when cooked.

What are you the most proud of? My kids.

What are you the least proud of? There was a short time in my career where I was a yeller. I made a few people cry and I realized that wasn’t a way to motivate people. In fact, I’m quite sure I lost the respect of a few individuals.

The best thing about cooking? Making people happy.

The worst thing about cooking? The long hours.

Local ingredient that you most look forward to coming in to season? Fiddleheads. It’s a sure sign that spring has sprung.

The strange talent that you possess? I’ve got incredible vision. People call me “hawk-eye”. And I’m good with numbers.

The strange talent that you wish you possessed? Talking backwards. You know you wish you could.

What is the one animal that scares you the most? Cougars. This plays into my love/hate relationship with cats.

If you had a motto, what would it be? Do or do not. There is no try.

Scariest situation you’ve ever been in? Surfing in Oregon and seeing a shark fin poking out of the water about 50 feet away.

Restaurant trend that needs to die? Mason jars!

Your favourite curse word? Jeepers!

Least favourite word? Motherf@#$%r, though I’ve been known to use it from time to time.

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Song you have on repeat in the kitchen? “YAH.” – Kendrick Lamar. Can’t I have the whole damn album?

The last book you read? “Eating Animals” by Jonathon Safran Foer.

The most beautiful place in the world? The Pacific Rim National Park.

Your last Netflix binge? “Riverdale”. I know. Apparently I’m a 16 year old girl.

If you could be someone different for one day, who would you be? Indiana Jones. He’s pretty badass!

The best way to go, in the very end? In my sleep after an amazing weekend of camping on the west coast with family and friends.

How would you like to be remembered? As someone who was caring, thoughtful, passionate, loving, charming, hardworking and funny as hell.

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