Vikram Vij has a passion for the food he creates.
It also happens to be a business — a successful one — which has vaulted him into celebrity chef status.
But the lines between passion and hard-lined business are blurred for him.
One follows another, and he has found a recipe which blends to two together.
That, and much more will be part of the unique From the Kitchen to the Boardroom event where Vij, along with three other well-known Vancouver chefs — Brett Turner from Droski Turner Hospitality Management, Jackie Kia Ellis from Beaucoup Bakery, and Quang Dang from West — will be the featured guests Jan. 28 at the River Rock Casino Resort.
Hosted by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Richmond News, it is billed as a dining experience with a forum focused on food, business and entrepreneurship in Metro Vancouver’s food industry.
It’s an event Vij said he is looking forward to, partly because it brings him back to his Richmond roots. It’s where his parents still live today after they moved from India to join him back in 1994, just as he was starting his rise in the Vancouver restaurant scene.
“My parents believed in Richmond as a multicultural community,” Vij said when the News interviewed him at his offices in Vancouver last week. “I’ve always loved it there, too.
“Even when I worked at John Bishop’s restaurant I would always go to Richmond to just walk around because it was vibrant, it was new. It was a perfect combination of Asians, Indians, and non-Asians. It was a beautiful community to do business in. I loved it.”
As a young, up and coming chef with not a lot of cash to spare, he managed to find an affordable home in east Richmond for his parents to rent when they arrived.
“Richmond means so muchto me. It’s almost like my little Singapore — it’s slightly colder,” he said with a smile, adding he, as a chef, also appreciated the farming side of the community.
“You had the farmland producing the blueberries and cranberries, and so much more, that you felt there was this greenbelt surrounding you,” he said.
Today, he also gets nostalgic about Richmond.
“It makes me think about those humble days, and to go back to Richmond to cook with my peers — great, well-known chefs — and showcase what Richmond means to me. Yes, we can talk about Vancouver, but Richmond has so much to offer.”
It turns out his mother had much to offer, too, as she could not resist giving her son a dose of motherly support in those early days.
“She’d take the bus from Richmond to my restaurant at Broadway and Cambie with a big pot of chicken curry sitting on her lap because my landlord didn’t like the smell of Indian cooking,” Vij said. “Of course there were strong aromas from roasting garlic and ginger, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and all the Indian spices.
“And for the longest time my mum didn’t tell me that people on the bus would make fun of this Indian lady with a big pot of curry on her lap with a plastic bag wrapped around it,” he said. “But she wanted me to serve the best curry for her son’s restaurant which was such a pride and joy for her.”
Growing up Vij tempered his mother’s passion for food with a strong business sense from his father who was a successful clothier in India.
“So, I knew how to wheel and deal, push the right buttons and find my own niche,” he said.
“My father was successful because he took the extra step to make that stitch that much better than someone else’s. It’s the same thing I do with cooking,” Vij said. “A lot of people cook Indianw food. But how the food is presented, the ambience, the feeling that you get when someone holds your hand and says, ‘Trust me you’ll be fine, just taste my food.’ That grandmotherly loves comes naturally and you share it with your guests. That’s what makes a difference.
“It’s not all just business. It’s very much also the passion and the love of the country and the cuisine.”
During the event at the River Rock, Vij said he plans to get across the message that goals are achievable if you manage the drive for what you do with a real world sensibility.
“I want people to say, ‘Wow, we got great food, great entertainment and great knowledge,” he said. “It will be like going to your grandmother’s house where you get great food, love, spoiled a little and even reprimanded a little if you’ve done something wrong.”
He explained that is a nurturing style of teaching which is effective and long-lasting.
Plus, the food is promised to be spectacular.
“I do believe, that if you want to rouse somebody you need to cook for them. If you need arousal, you need music, food, good wine and good company,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to provide at the River Rock.”
Tickets for From the Kitchen to the Boardroom are $250 ($225 for chamber members) are available by calling 604-278-2822 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.