Andrea Carlson

Like her favourite restaurant

In her new book, Burdock & Co: Poetic Recipes Inspired by Ocean, Land & Air, available October 8, Vancouver chef and restaurant owner Andrea Carlson recalls that going out on a fishing boat off Haida Gwaii made her want to know where her food comes from, meet the people who put in the hard work to bring us these foods, experience what it means to fish or farm, and support those who do.

The B.C. native, who studied organic farming and landscape design before going to cooking school, created a scratch kitchen garden for Tofino Botanical Gardens on Vancouver Island, where she also worked at Sooke Harbour House, which grows organic ingredients on-site. Back in Vancouver, she was chef de cuisine at Raincity Grill, where she developed the 100-Mile Menu, and executive chef at Bishops.

In 2013, Carlson opened the farm-to-table restaurant Burdock & Co on Main Street with partner Kevin Bismanis and also purchased Harvest Community Foods grocery and noodle shop on the edge of Chinatown, co-owned with Gabriella Meyer. A pioneer of naturalist food and drink, Burdock & Co prioritizes ingredients sourced from local farmers, growers and vintners. 

Carlson's favourite places and activities revolve around her love of nature and B.C.

What is your favourite spot in B.C.?

Gulf Islands are my favourite spot. Love the chill relaxed energy and engaged humans inhabiting the islands. 

Where did you go on your last vacation?

Pender Island. Had not been there for over a decade so it was nice to check it out again—it is a truly gorgeous place!

What is your most memorable podcast, film or book?

The last book I read that I really enjoyed was the David Lynch autobiography Room to Dream. I loved reading about his creative journey to date and what seems to me his completely natural and unconstrained approach. And the title itself is a reminder of the essential fact that we must have down time and mental space to create—something that has become almost impossible in our world.

Favourite restaurant/bar?

Masayoshi. There are so few chef-driven restaurants left in Vancouver, and chef Masayoshi Baba is a true artist and deeply dedicated.

What is your morning routine?

Coffee with my partner and cat, and then emails, hopefully exercise and on with the day.

Hobby?

Gardening is something I enjoy dabbling with in summer. I have just started taking monthly ikebana classes and hope to do a Master Gardener course in the new year.

Favourite Vancouver neighbourhood?

Main Street and Strathcona—lots of unique independent businesses, fashion stores and restaurants.

Best advice ever received?

It was “numbers don’t lie” or “it’s just numbers”—something to that effect. A good reminder that, in the multi-dimensional drama that is a restaurant, the numbers are still the factual elements of the business.

Your worst job ever?

I am fortunate that the worst job I can say I’ve had was doing administrative work at CP Air Lines while in high school. Not exactly stimulating. Nor was the volunteer stint at the local hospital as a teenager. Never had a bad job since!

If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?

A whale. The idea that you can be at surface and head deep down into the ocean is crazy. And it must be a very calm place down deep.