In Vancouver, we have a few of own Celebrity Chefs. One of them, like other Celebrity Chefs, is well known outside of Vancouver. He’s handsome, dashing, charismatic, and one expects, probably a bit of a prima donna (or in this case, that would be primo uomo). The guy is called ‘Rob Feenie’, and he’s particularly well known for his win over Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America. He’s also known (around here) because he also appears (along with 2 of the other celebrity chefs in town) in commercials for the ‘White Spot’ restaurant chain.
So you can imagine the headlines that appeared today when he broke ties with the two restaurants he runs in Vancouver, effectively quitting from the role of Executive Chef at Lumière and Feenie’s. Yes, that’s right, the restaurant that bears Rob Feenie’s name, as of this past Friday, no longer serves his food.
Pam and I have been to a few of the good restaurants in town, including 2 visits to West, a lovely meal at Bishop’s and a quite a few less high-end establishments. We never made it to either Lumière or Feenies, partly because we are suspicious of the mark-up that the caché of a famous chef can add, and that one can often do better for less elsewhere.
As the article in the Vancouver Sun reports, this falling-out between Feenie and his backers is amounting to a series of ‘he-said’, ‘they-said’ statements, and I have to wonder if in the end, there aren’t going to be too many losers in this game:
Feenie, whether he gets his restaurants back or not, is assured of a spectacular opening, should he decide to open a new restaurant (Feenie’s II — The Real Thing, perhaps?). The backers of his original restaurant, David and Manjy Sidoo, also have little to lose in terms of customers, unless Feenie can get them to boycott his old restaurants as a show of solidarity. I expect, instead, that some people will go to those eateries out of curiosity, to either see if they have slipped in quality or flair since Feenie’s departure, or if they’ve never been to either of them before, to see what all the fuss is about. Restaurants in Vancouver in general will probably also reap a benefit; this squabble will only help to bring the whole subject of fine-dining (and colourful chefs) in Vancouver to water coolers all over the city and Province. After all, it’s made the front page of the Sun already.
I’ve often talked about how great the restaurants (and the food in general)are in this town. It’s going to be interesting to see how this very public breakup affects the community, especially as we near the onslaught of millions of high-end tourists for the 2010 games. If I were Feenie, I’d certainly want to be serving expensive, once-in-a-lifetime dinners to those crowds. This gastronomic soap opera is definitely not over yet.