Dine out, walk, shop and splash with uber chef Robert Belcham of the illustrious Campagnolo and refuel restaurants.
Spending the frigid Saturday afternoons of his childhood in Edmonton and Peace River eating fresh-from-the-oven cookies and watching PBS cooking programs, chef Robert Belcham was interested in cooking from a young age.
Starting out as a line cook at Rebar, an innovative vegetarian restaurant in Victoria, followed by as stint at The Aerie Resort on Vancouver Island, Robert eventually received a call from star chef Thomas Keller, offering him a chef de partie position at his famous Yountville restaurant, The French Laundry. He then became a private chef in the Silicon Valley, where, he says, “I became much more aware of what the guests feel, what they want and what they need. I know I’m a better chef because of it.”
Since moving back to the Lower Mainland to start a family with his wife, Julia Austine, in 2002, he has been chef de cuisine at C restaurant, chef consultant at Nu and opened tow award-winning restaurants: Fuel Restaurant (recently relaunched as refuel restaurant and bar) and Campagnolo Restaurant, which took home the Gold for Best New Restaurant of 2010 from Vancouver Magazine’s annual restaurant awards.
Robert spends much of his time sourcing the best-quality regional products and animals from organic and free run farms, establishing valuable relationships with farmers. He often pays more than market price for products to help support local farmers and to ensure the highest quality. Also, by doing all his butchery in-house, Robert provides refuel and Campagnolo diners with unique whole-roast dinners and a wide selection of house-made charcuterie, which he now packages under The Cure label and sells at both restaurants and at les amis du FROMAGE.
Chef Robert’s 5 free, cheap or worth it things to see or buy in Vancouver (and beyond)
DINE OUT Ukrainian-style. The first Friday of every month, the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Cathedral hosts a classic Ukrainian dinner that is open to the public. The dinner is held to raise money for the church and is put together by volunteers. The result is the most wholesome and delicious feast put on by the grandmother you always wished you had. Dinner prices range from $3.00 for borscht to $14 for a super meal that includes perogies. Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, 154 East 10th Ave., Vancouver, 604-876-4747
WALK in the park. We have one of the most beautiful and majestic provincial parks just an hour and half from downtown Vancouver. Golden Ears Provincial Park, just east of Maple Ridge, offers hiking trails along Gold Creek and the mountain-ringed Alouette Lake for canoeing and fishing. A true taste of the B.C. wilderness. Check it out here.
SHOP at the Farmers Market. The Main St. Farmers’ Market, at Thornton Park just north of Terminal on Wednesday afternoons, offers everything you need to throw a great dinner party or a simple lunch for two. From organic produce from Klippers and free range pork from Geldermans Farm to handmade Parisian treats from Paul Croteau Confections, the market can satisfy your foodie desires. The easiest part is the abundance of free parking and the proximity to the Main Street/ScienceWorld Skytrain station. Beat the crowds and do your shopping on Wednesdays for the weekend. Check out Farmers Markets at www.eatlocal.org
BE COOL at the water park. My seven year-old son loves going to the water park at Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park to cool down on those hot days of summer. Bring a book and some strong sunscreen because your kids will be playing for a lot longer than you can. It is the biggest spray down park in Vancouver. The best part: it’s free (except if you’re parking).
GO BACK IN TIME with classic cars. Every Thursday in the summer, the hot rodders, gear heads and car guys show off their coveted rides at the A&W in Maple Ridge. At the corner of Lougheed Highway and 228th Avenue, the tunes are classic ’50s rock and the root beer is served in frosty mugs. Bring the family for a burger and poutine or just drink in the nostalgia. Check it out here.
Photo: C. Phaisalakani