By TIM PAWSEY
In an industry not short of egos, there are few “name” chefs more under-the-radar than Michel Jacob. The unassuming owner of Le Crocodile, arguably the éminence grise of the culinary scene, stays very much in the background—as in, the kitchen. For it’s from here he can ensure that every plate meets or exceeds expectations.
The chef named his restaurant in homage to Strasbourg’s celebrated Michelin-starred Au Crocodile, where the young chef-to-be first experienced the standard of excellence he aspired to recreate. Over the years, some 350 young chefs have passed through his kitchen as apprentices. Now luminaries in their own right, they include Ned Bell (Ocean Wise, Vancouver Club), Rob Feenie (Cactus Club Cafe and formerly Lumière) and David Hawksworth (Hawksworth, Nightingale). All three have helped shape the culinary scene in Vancouver, thanks in great part to the sense of discipline and respect instilled by Jacob.
“Almost everywhere I go to eat, somebody knows me,” chuckles Jacob. Le Crocodile’s new chef de cuisine, Greg McCallum, also apprenticed under Jacob before embarking on his career, now come full circle.
What does it take to be a good chef, or own your own place? “If it’s one thing, it’s be consistent,” Jacob insists. “It’s the number-one reason we are still here after 35 years.” He adds, “You’re only as good as your team.”
And the biggest change he’s noticed since starting out? Before, Montreal and Toronto ruled, but Jacob says it’s now Vancouver’s turn as “the leading city in Canada.”
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