Colin Uyeda and Pricilla Deo took possession of the old Super Hiro Sushi Restaurant (2585 W Broadway) at the end of March.
Although there isn’t much to see from the street, on the other side of the papered-up windows, the 1400 sqft, 40 seat restaurant is being transformed: tables are being refinished, the kitchen is getting scrubbed, and yellow walls are being re-painted with a deep blue colour. When they are done, Uyeda and Deo will have realized their dream.
Before his recent three year-run as the chef de cuisine at Kissa Tanto, Chef Uyeda was at Pilgrimme on Galiano Island. Deo is a pastry chef (recently at Tsawwassen Springs). Together, the duo plans to open a community-oriented vegan restaurant. They are calling it Folke.
As Deo explains: “The name Folke means to bring people together. That is our goal. We want guests to feel like they’re having just really good food in a fun, casual environment. We want it to feel like they’re coming over to a friend’s house for dinner. Having our open kitchen will allow guests to see chefs at work. We’ll have a lot of beautiful art and decor to make the space feel warm and inviting. We want the ambiance to feel chatty, comfortable and cozy.”
To underscore the concept of bringing people together, Folke’s kitchen staff will be the ones running the food to the tables – a service decision motivated by a desire to connect guests to a menu that is intent on showcasing vegetables for what they are (rather than one that attempts to recreate meat-based recipes using plant-based substitutes). There will also be a wine program, which Deo and Uyeda have designed together, and a selection of local beer and cider, seasonal cocktails and some non-alcoholic beverages (crafted in-house).
When I asked the pair about the style of service, Deo explained that the concept was something that Uyeda had come across while working at Pilgrimme and the now-closed Relae (Copenhagen). “Colin found that it really helped bring the team together and encouraged everyone to work together. It helps break down that divide between front-of-house and back-of-house and allows the servers to focus on the guest experience. We also like the idea of having the chefs be able to explain the dish; they are the ones who know it best and can speak to it, so why not have them be the ones sharing that?”
Beyond food and concept, one of the things that stood out to me most about Deo and Uyeda’s plans for Folke was their aim to create a sustainable model for work and pay. In addition to a salary on par with industry standards, they intend to offer full benefits for their staff, and will implement a ‘hospitality included’ pricing model that will see tips rolled into menu prices. By way of explanation, Uyeda and Deo had this to say:
“We’ve both been in positions where we have felt the affects of the industry. During the pandemic, there were a number of people in the industry who left and pivoted to other career paths. It was partially due to the inherent instability of the restaurant industry. We wanted to have a place where our team could have a stable work environment that they just enjoyed being in. We know how tough this industry can be, and we want to ensure our staff feels respected and cared for and knows how much we appreciate having them join us. That’s our priority.”
Fair salary, work-life balance and a profitable business are a tricky triumvirate of goals to pull off – particularly in the restaurant industry, where profit margins are notoriously slim. It’s encouraging to see this pair address these issues as part of their business plan. We suspect there’s much more – including a lot of deliciousness – to look forward to here. So expect further reporting as Folke nears their launch in early June. In the meantime you can follow Folke on IG here.