Canadian Chef Profiles: Erik Heck, Vancouver B.C

by Krlmagi

Chef Erik Heck showcases impeccably fresh, sustainable seafood in flavorful, creatively presented dishes at WildTale Coastal Grill in Vancouver.

Having parents with a passion for food was the initial inspiration for Chef Erik Heck to start a culinary career. After starting out washing dishes in a chain restaurant, Heck moved up in the industry until he became a sous chef at Joe Fortes restaurant. Eventually he met his business partner John Crook with whom he opened a number of restaurants before the pair collaborated on creating WildTale.

In fact, Heck says that Crook has been one of his strongest influences as a chef. He calls him an amazing chef with a wealth of knowledge from many years of cooking including a stint with Daniel Boulud in New York. Heck adds, “We’re best friends and we’ve worked together for over ten years.”

Chef Erik Heck (right) and his business partner Chef John Crook (left)
Chef Erik Heck (right) and his business partner Chef John Crook (left)
Tracey Kusiewicz/Foodie Photography

Another major influence for Heck is his own father. His father wasn’t a professional cook but the meals that he cooked at home were “unreal.” He had dinner parties every weekend and involved Heck in  the cooking process as a child. Heck’s father was completely self taught and it was an inspiration to him growing up.

While Heck was working for the Glowbal Group, he cooked with their corporate chef, Ryan Gauthier. Heck says, “ Ryan was an amazing chef to cook with and he’s very humble.”

Leaning on the flavours that the sea provides is key to how Heck is approaching food at WildTale. He’s working with a company called Queen Charlotte Seafood. They catch the fish on their fishing boat, transfer it to their plane and fly it to Vancouver, so the fish is extremely fresh.

The freshness of the seafood means that Heck is playing a supporting role to the main product in his cooking. He doesn’t want to mask the flavour of the seafood with heavy sauces but does everything he can to bring out its flavours.

Sustainability is another important aspect of Heck’s approach to food. He’s conscious of it and likes to support a wide variety of different independent suppliers of various sizes when he’s sourcing his ingredients.

Heck adds, “I like when somebody sits down in the restaurant and says, ‘I totally know what that is!’ I like there to be value and I want people to notice the quality of the ingredients.”

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke - avocado, jalapeño, spiced wontons
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke - avocado, jalapeño, spiced wontons
Pan Seared Haida Gwaii Halibut - crab & herb crusted, spicy penne alla ‘puttanesca’, basil beurre blanc.
Pan Seared Haida Gwaii Halibut - crab & herb crusted, spicy penne alla ‘puttanesca’, basil beurre blanc.

The process of developing menus is a collaboration between Heck and his business partner. They brainstorm dishes which Heck cooks and they critique, fine tune and ultimately put out as a finished dish when they’re both satisfied with it. Heck also believes in cooking food that will satisfy his customers rather than just his own culinary interests.

Sourcing ingredients is a matter of striking a balance for Heck. He strives to get a good mixture of smaller and larger suppliers. Heck tries to be sustainable and use organically grown products as much as possible but he doesn’t tie himself to them exclusively. The diversity of relationships with suppliers means that he can source what he needs at any given time.

Some people perceive the lifestyle of a chef as being akin to the lifestyle of a rock star, but Heck is a working chef who spends every day on the line with his cooks. He hopes that the cooks will look at him as, “someone who is inspirational and helps them to grow in their careers.” He adds that he wants to create a positive kitchen environment.

Heck is looking for cooks that have a sense of commitment and loyalty to their jobs. He’s also interested in people who have a good attitude and a passion for what they’re doing. He uses his own career as an example and explains, “I started out as a dishwasher and I didn’t know anything about cooking, I didn’t even know how to hold a knife. As long as you have passion and commitment, you can go a long way in the kitchen.”

The challenging nature of Heck’s job as a chef provides him with motivation and inspiration. He explains, “Every day there’s a challenge. When you’re slow, there’s a challenge. When you’re busy, there’s a challenge. There are so many different aspects of restaurants that keep me coming back for more. It can be the people, the product or the customers. All of those things that keep inspiring me!”

The chef is also inspired by the life that he’s created for himself. He lives a block from both of his restaurants and his family often comes to visit him at work. Heck has found a balance that keeps him happy as a chef and as a person.


This article is based on an interview conducted with Chef Erik Heck on August 26, 2015.

Daily Seafood Duo - rotating seafood & sauces, roasted new potatoes, seasonal vegetables.
Daily Seafood Duo - rotating seafood & sauces, roasted new potatoes, seasonal vegetables.
Updated: 08/28/2015, Krlmagi
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