Five Years Ago This Week, Inside an Almost Finished ‘Farmer’s Apprentice’

Five years ago this week I toured Farmer’s Apprentice during the last stage of its construction, some two months after we broke the news of its coming. The South Granville restaurant – helmed by owner/chef David Gunawan – has since gone on to win many awards, and is considered by many to be one of Vancouver’s most consistently excellent eateries. Here’s what we wrote about it back then, as well as a photo gallery from the day of the walk-through.

[Co-owner David] 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.”

The space will seat about 30 people with a 12 seat patio out front (signage by local artist Andy Dixon) and plate a daily menu based on whatever the farmers might deliver that day. That should translate into about 9-10 dishes, plus 2-3 desserts. I’ve seen Gunawan’s menu, and it looks mighty tasty. Think grilled cucumber and chocolate, heirloom tomato gazpacho with Dungeness crab and basil sorbet, summer squash tartar with walnut and smoked eggplant puree, Asian headcheese terrine with chewy pickles, and other things besides.

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