After a brief stint making pizzas as a teenager, Chef Daryl Pope got his Red Seal certification from Camosun College in Victoria and went to apprentice with Chef Christophe Letard at the Aerie Resort on Vancouver Island. Letard became his mentor and later his friend. The experience helped shape Pope as a chef. He explains, “When I apprenticed, I got into cooking competitions a young age. It helped me to hone my skills, push myself to use different local ingredients and always try to be the best.”
Canadian Chefs in Conversation: Daryl Pope, Artisan Bistro, Victoria BC
Chef Daryl Pope makes accessible, flavorful food using local ingredients and takes the time to create most of what the restaurant uses in house at Artisan Bistro in Victoria.
Chef Daryl Pope at work
The goal for Pope in his current restaurant endeavour is to emphasize quality without sacrificing value and to make as much as possible in house. He adds, “We are using high end products and turning out some amazing food. There are a lot of restaurants in town that don’t take the time to do it properly, but we make all of our pasta, our gnocchi and our sauces in house. We also source the best ingredients that we can from the island.”
Sourcing ingredients is a matter of building relationships with local farmers and businesses for Pope. He explains, “Farmers do so much work and put in so much time, but they don’t always get much back. You really want to support them first. I’d rather spend a little extra to get quality product than buy something from California for less.”
A good illustration of this process is outlined by Pope when he says, “I had a lady come by the restaurant a week ago. She introduced herself and gave me some of her samples. She’s a five minute drive from us and she grows lettuce. She has all this beautiful lettuce and I had no idea she was even there. I thanked her, tested her product and it’s great. Once I see how it’s going to work with the budget, I’m going to call her and buy some product from her.”
Once he has the ingredients, Pope believes in respecting their integrity. He points out, “Whether it’s B.C. field tomatoes or fresh Saltspring Island lamb, it’s about highlighting and cooking the product with the best technique you have. I always try to keep it simple, use the product wisely and cook it to perfection. You also have to be careful not to crowd the plate with too many ingredients.”
Bistro Benny - Pork belly, avocado, brie, hollandaise
Wild Coho Salmon,Pan-Fried Gnocchi, House Ricotta, Macadamia Butter, Wild Mushrooms, Maple Soy Glaze
Hard work and commitment are both important traits in a chef from Pope’s point of view. He says, “A lot of chefs come out of school now and think they’re ready to run a restaurant. I think you have to put in the years it takes to become a chef. People used to come in at 7 a.m. and leave at 10 or 11 p.m. You put in the time because your school’s not when you go to school, it’s the restaurant where you work. It was how I started in the business, but I think that’s being lost right now.”
The people he works with have to show that same level of commitment to the job as he does. Pope explains, “I look for somebody who will put in the time and learn, so I can come in and teach them everything and they can progress their career from there. It’s not a job, it’s a career. There are going to be long days where you’re grinding on the line and the prep is huge. You do the prep, you cook all that day and there’s more prep the next day. It’s very intimidating and I want to make sure that they’re ready for it.”
The positive responses that Pope gets from his clientele keep him moving forward in his career. He says, “When someone says that the veggie burger here is the best they’ve ever eaten or that the calamari here is the best thing they’ve eaten in a long time, it makes all of the hard work worth it. I know I’m going to have to work two or three more hours a day to get everything perfect but the reward from the customer’s positive feedback is why we do it. “
This profile of Chef Daryl Pope is based on a telephone interview that was conducted and recorded on August 26, 2016.