Hotel dining used to be the last resort of the timid diner, but clearly those days are long gone. The roaring success of places like Hawksworth and YEW have put hotel dining firmly back on the map. The Fairmont Waterfront's chef Dana Hauser wants ARC to be on that list too. We talked to chef Hauser about her influences and the particular challenges that hotel dining can bring.
[Photo Cory Dawson Photography]
What's the biggest challenge facing you as a hotel chef?
'Hotel food' are the two worst words in dining; I hate the idea of "hotel food". I'm not doing that and it's not fair to our chefs who work so hard here to expect them to do just cook hotel food. We do push things here; it's my job to educate people and teach them what to eat. For instance, last year at Feast of Fields we did head cheese. This year I'm taking the smoker out with us. We want to take risks and be talked about in the same breath as the Pidgins and Wildebeests of the city.
What are your thoughts on the city's dining scene?
People in Vancouver are very food-savvy and the city's become a hotspot for great restaurants so it's crucial that I know my competition and I need to stay abreast of what's happening in the city's food scene. In the past few weeks or so I've been to Kingyo, Wildebeest and Tableau. A few weeks ago I was at the Visa Infinity dinner that chef Makoto & Bar Isabel did together at Pidgin. I thought it was fantastic, not just the courses but the wine pairings were matched perfectly.
Who are your targeting?
We're reaching out to 35-60 year olds in the downtown core and targeting our neighbourhood. We want the office towers to come in for lunch and the locals to come for dinner. Of course, it's important that the in-house guests are coming in too, but we want to be part of the neighbourhood for everyone.
What elements of other restaurants do you want to bring into ARC?
What I like about places like Kingyo; I love the atmosphere, the energy, it wakes me up and leaves me wanting to talk about it. I want that vibe in the lounge - not necessarily people screaming welcome at you! - but that great vibe. I've only been to Tableau once, but I'm in love with the room, I think it's fantastic, but it's all about the chef for me; I go to a restaurant like that because I respect the chef. If I find a chef that I respect; his work ethic and his style, I'll follow them.
What are you doing in ARC that you're most excited about now?
Recently, we had in a group of ladies and I made them a whole baked spring salmon, I brought it in and presented it whole with a bunch of seasonal sides. But the fun part is that we're growing hay on the roof right now and so I stuffed two local roast chickens with hay, lit it on fire and then carried them through the restaurant. Every single table stopped what they were doing to watch! I'm not gonna lie; I did check where the health & safety rep was first, but that was amazing.
ARC is running a monthly-changing tasting menu showcasing the best that the season has to offer. Right now the 'plant to plate' menu is running.
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