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VANCOUVERITES: A Chat With “Chef Todd” Of 12B, Vancouver’s Underground Restaurant

So many chefs strive for recognition that it seems plainly bizarre to find one who take pains to maintain his anonymity. “Chef Todd” is the fellow behind 12B, arguably Vancouver’s most celebrated underground restaurant (so named after his apartment number). We were surprised to see him show his face present at the Pecha Kucha food special a few months back (his presentation was outstanding), and we’re stoked that he’s been voted on stage for the All Star show on February 29th, but we still feel that we know next to nothing about him. We know that he can cook, that he makes us laugh, that he had about 20 years experience before going rogue some four years ago, and that his email address [email protected] (in case we ever want to make a reservation), but that’s about it. So let’s find out more…

Name the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? Cigarettes.

Default drink/cocktail of choice? Champagne, Bourbon, or cider.

The strangest talent that you possess? I can flip a dumpster with my tongue.

The Vancouverite that you admire most? Nico Schuermans [chef/co-owner of Chambar]. He’s built a very successful empire from the concepts of great food, professional unpretentious service and unique use of product combined with client education. And he treats his people (who are themselves great) awesome.

Your role models? Bugs Bunny, Kermit the Frog, Bill Murray, Frank Zappa, Dave Semenko.

Your major character flaw? A sweet tooth for the booze.

The character flaw in others that you can’t abide? Dishonesty.

The strangest place you’ve ever been to? I had an acid trip that had me so deep in my mind that I saw the molecules involved in digestion like a living microscope.

Breakfast? Cigarettes and coffee, Champagne, chocolate croissant, sex.

The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years? The Lorax by Dr. Suess, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.

What is your biggest phobia? Death.

When you can’t sleep? Either masturbate or get up and smoke.

The historical personalities, both good and bad, that fascinate you the most? Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Akhenaten, David thompson, Dr. Mengele, St. Germain.

What trend have you followed that you now regret? Grunge combined with hippy idealism lead to some unfortunate fashion statements.

The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair? Perm in Grade 5.

What are the three things you’d like to change about Vancouver? Homelessness, drugs, self involvement.

What does food do for community? Food is a way to bring people together, either in consumption or production. The way/what people eat is symbolic of the time/place that particular group represents. At the core, it’s the most primal and direct way to share and nourish and show you care for eachother, and isn’t that what community is anyway? We. Together.

Your go to, no-frills place for dinner? Sushiyama.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you? I’d love to see New York, but today, anywhere sunny.

Where did you go to school? Hard knocks.

The cliché that you overuse? People make the party.

Shoe of choice? Common Projects have been my go-to kicks.

The different career path that you could have gone on? Massage Therapy.

Your ancestry? Irish Catholic on one side, Irish Protestant on the other.

Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure? Las Vegas.

Your three favourite films? The Bad Lieutenant, The Party (Peter Sellers!),and Withnail & I.

Favourite pizza? I like a thin crust with extra sauce and some sort of spicy meat, but I’m really not picky as long as someone else made it.

Under what circumstances would you join the army? To have Jacques Pepin’s job cooking for the boss of the country.

Your most regrettable purchase ever? A 1983 Lada “Signet”.

How do you know when you can trust someone? The eyes don’t lie.

What was the luckiest moment in your life? My birth.

What was the unluckiest moment in your life? Not being able to make it to the bathroom in time.

What are you the most proud of? My work ethic.

What are you the least proud of? The amount of time I spend with my son.

The biggest mistake you’ve ever made? Not believing in myself.

What is the best thing about your work? Freedom of creativity.

What is the worst thing about your work? The 4 foot leash to my stove.

The relatively normal piece of clothing that you believe you’d look the most ridiculous in? Spandex.

The talent that you wish you possessed? Time travel.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions? 93 meltdown www.itstherub.com, a sick hiphop compendium, 88-99.

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play? The drums.

What sport did you give up and why? Hockey. You get to a certain level of competition and it gets quite political. My dad always told me to play until it wasn’t fun anymore.

What is the game that you’re best at? I’m ranked #3 worldwide at hock, a game my friend’s dad invented as a kid. It’s sort of a mix of soccer and hockey.

What is the one animal that scares you the most? Honey Badger.

If you had a motto, what would it be? Expectation is the downfall of human existence.

Scariest situation you’ve ever been in? Emergency surgery.

Your favourite word? Hijiki.

Your least favourite word? No.

Your favourite curse word? Cum-guzzling-gutter-slut.

What is beauty? A French phonetic corruption of a short cloth neck ornament currently in resurgence

Three things of no monetary value that you own and will keep dearly until you die? Jari Kurri’s helmet; finger paintings from my son when he was small; the knives of my grandfather.

The strangest road you’ve ever travelled? I have this recurring dream where the world is covered in this crystallized slime and I’m in this alley trying to find a way out, but it’s just more caverns.

Your first memory? Playing soccer with my great-grandfather.

The first album that made you love music? Watching Ten Years After (the Woodstock movie) in Grade 4. Alvin Lee lights it the fuck up. I made my dad take me to the record store that day.

The song that you could listen to on repeat for an hour? Watermelon in Easter Hay by Frank Zappa (listen).

The one place that you have the least interest in ever visiting? Australia.

The first three things that you do every morning? Turn on the coffee machine, take a shower, smoke a cigarette w/an espresso. Alternatively, open my eyes, kiss my girl, drink the macchiato handed to me.

Describe your favourite photograph. She’s looking over her shoulder on her side with heroin eyes and a come here daddy look, wet hair and a pointed finger of mischief buried in a dimpled cleft, overfull lips wrapped in a rumpled cotton sheet, pointed toes poking out the bottom, lazy and natural and an early morning sunrise coming through an open window shooting geometry of light everywhere. I could look at it all day.


There are 5 comments

  1. Great Q & A…..just reminded me of how much I miss talking with Todd. Must phone him now.