Tableau Bar Bistro: Trained in Hell, Cooking Made in Heaven

Posted on Apr 1, 2016

Tableau Bar BistroTableau, the restaurant at the Loden Hotel in downtown Vancouver, is the latest offshoot of the uber-successful Homer Street Café. Serving classically prepared French bistro cuisine with a modern twist, it is all you could ask for in a dining experience: delicious food, friendly, helpful servers, cool ambience and scene, and fair prices.

Chef de CuisineThe beginning of the Tableau story starts with its incredibly talented Chef de Cuisine, Garett Blundell. Garett is the ambitious and passionate foodie who helped the team launch Voya, one of the top go-to restaurants in the city. Voya, which used to occupy the space Tableau is currently in was also French in concept, but not bistro, it was fine dining.  Current trends in this city show a desire for more casual ambience, and lower average check sizes. So after a couple of years Voya closed for renovations and re-emerged as Tableau. While the renovations that were taking place that would create Tableau, Garett helped open its sister restaurant, the Homer Street Café, where he worked as sous chef.

Tableau Bar BistroOpening a restaurant can be hell. Keeping it going can, in this city, be an even hotter hell. Garett has done both. But the hell he told us about, the one that really contributed to the making of the Chef he is today, was the hell he went through in London, England, training in three of Hell’s Kitchen Chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. We asked:  why London? “All of the chefs in the city I admire like David Hawksworth, and Marc-André Choquette (Tableau’s former Executive Chef) have world experience and I figured if I really wanted to do this, I need experience like that under my belt.” And how was it working with a world famous chef and larger-than-life TV personality?  “The hours were insane” Garrett tells us. “12 plus hours at the restaurant was typical. Wages were minimal so you had to live outside the City where rents were affordable. That meant at least a one hour commute each way. Your life was work, and that is all.” What was it about Ramsay’s style that propelled him to being a top celebrity Chef with his own TV show and millions of viewers? “Perfection. Relentless pursuit of perfection” Garett tells us. “Every detail in the restaurant had to be perfect. I remember starting out and having to peel carrots. They all had to be identical. If one was too short, or too thin, even by just a tiny bit, it was thrown out. The waste was just incredible. We are all about sustainable here at Tableau. You cannot call yourself sustainable and be wasteful. And you certainly cannot offer fair prices to your customers if you are wasteful.”

garett blundell chef de cuisineGarett learned from this experience to sweat the details that matter. You might find one carrot slightly larger than another on your plate, but they will be delicious every time. Of course, we never believed that Gordon Ramsay actually treated his people anything like how he does on Hell’s Kitchen, with all of the abusive yelling and swearing. Did he? “Trust me, the TV version is the G-rated version of what really goes on” Garrett informs us. “They are slaves to their Michelin stars. To the guys from Michelin, having the carrots all the same diameter matters. To diners, that does not matter. To me, what matters are having the best fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. To me what matters is that our restaurant is part of a sustainable food chain. We don’t like waste. We plan the making of our meals to minimize waste.”

Chef de CuisineMichelin stars have, in some circles become the holy grail of fine dining. Having worked in two of Ramsay’s 1 star restaurant and in his 3 star restaurant, Garett was candid in his views about the Michelin stars.  “I personally feel it’s a good thing that Michelin isn’t in Canada because I don’t believe that’s the way forward with cuisine. It’s a really old-school train of thought that is very militant and fear-based. The chefs/sous chefs are constantly yelling at you because nothing is ever good enough so you’re just living in constant fear. For me I don’t think that’s how food was ever meant to be, food is about bringing people together and most people enjoying the food wouldn’t even be aware of some of the things we were forced to do. I actually had a ruler for peeling my carrots and was told how long and thick the carrots needed to be – so to peel 50 carrots would literally take me 3 hours. There’s no creativity—the only person that had the power was the head chef and everyone else are minions carrying out to an exact T what they want.” We could not agree more. For Advinetures, the whole dining experience should be about conviviality, about bringing people together to share conversation, food and drink, and in a nice surrounding.

Tableau hits the mark for us. The renovations have made the room stunning. High ceilings create a sense of roominess; deep earth-coloured tones generate warmth; clean lines denote modernity while lighting and other touches evoke tradition. The food is delicious. Garett explains how they achieve their culinary goals. “Simple food based on classic technique. Ingredient driven, fresh & seasonal. I don’t want to overcomplicate things. Let the ingredients speak for themselves, that’s the kind of thing I want to showcase on the plate. I’m not for anything too pretentious, I love the high end/fine dining but I feel simple, beautiful food done with classic technique suits me as a French-trained chef. Classic techniques let you heighten what the food already offers on its own. “

Tableau Bar BistroWe had a terrific dinner at Tableau. We left full, but not stuffed, after an appetizer and entree each and shared dessert.  Each dish showed intense flavours, imagination and great presentation. The room was beautiful, comfortable and sophisticated in appearance. Even though it was a Tuesday night, it was quite full (reservations are recommended).  The wine list is thoughtfully chosen, a mix of French and BC choices at prices appropriate to the bistro concept.  A terrific looking bar has been gathering all sorts of awards for its cocktails; we did not try any but we could tell the people sitting at the bar were definitely enjoying theirs! We suggest you make a stop at Tableau Bar and Bistro soon. We will definitely be coming back.

Chef de Cuisine

Tableau Bar Bistro –

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