Gastown is the happening hood for fine dining, Uwe Boll says
Filmmaker Uwe Boll aims to shock a new audience: Vancouver’s fine-dining snobs
“You get in Vancouver a lot of good food, but you’re not getting exceptional food,” says Uwe Boll, the industrious silver-haired German filmmaker over an espresso at Gastown’s Milano Coffee in February. “The craftsmanship is way bigger in Europe.” Obsessive, even. Like: “cut that broccoli in that form, and they check the 10 broccolis, and if they don’t look exactly the same, they kill you. You’re a fucking loser.”
Boll moved to Vancouver in 2006 to be with his wife, a Kelowna-born TV producer. Now, in a strange plot twist, the 49-year-old auteur—best known for his critically panned, self-financed action and horror flicks—is bringing his entrepreneurial zeal to a high-end restaurant with contemporary spins on German classics, reflecting a region and price point seldom seen in Vancouver. The key ingredients for Bauhaus: a great location (1 West Cordova), a seven-figure renovation and, most importantly, a star chef—Stefan Hartmann from Berlin, whose Michelin-starred former restaurant, Hartmanns, attracted a glowing review in the New York Times.
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“I am deep in the hole,” says Boll, laughing. “But I talked to various restaurateurs in Vancouver, and everyone who’s successful told me go big or forget it.” He says small restaurants are only profitable when owner and chef are one and the same, citing Vikram Vij as an example. Plus, he wanted to bring something new to Vancouver: a level of fine dining that’s grown increasingly scarce in the city that birthed the “casual fine dining” concept. “We have handmade marble tables,” Boll says, and “cutlery from Germany coming. One spoon is $100. We really go all the way.”
Jamie Maw, former food editor for Vancouver magazine, says Boll’s ambitious gamble, while commendable, could also be his undoing. “Vancouverites are very sensitive to price point,” Maw says, and it’ll take more than a big name to ensure Bauhaus stays open. Daniel Boulud, owner of a Michelin two-star restaurant in New York, couldn’t save Vancouver’s Lumière, which shut down in 2011. Nor could celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower help Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s 900 West, which struggled under his brief tenure. At roughly $80 for a three-course meal (add another $100 for the 15-course option), Bauhaus is targeting what Maw calls the “celebratory and expense account” market—which is small and doesn’t lend itself to repeat visits.
For his part, Boll has a few tricks up his sleeve to differentiate himself from other fine-dining offerings, like staying open later, 1 a.m., as an upscale alternative for late-night drinks and tapas. While he’s fully aware of the pitfalls of the restaurant business, Boll notes that his film career has been shaped by a need for survival—mixing tax incentives with shoestring budgets, producing two or three movies a year. "I’m not a subsidized filmmaker. I had to make money."