For the past five years, Chef Brian Luptak has been dazzling customers with his creative, playful approach to plant-based dishes at the popular Acorn restaurant in Vancouver. His efforts have captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike and in March 2019, The Acorn was named the top vegan-friendly restaurant in the world by Big 7 Travel.
“I’m having a lot of fun with vegetables,” Luptak says. “Good food is good food.”
Luptak began at The Acorn in 2014, after a brief four-month break from the culinary world during which he questioned continuing as a chef. By then he had been in the food industry for over 10 years gradually moving west across the country from Ontario to Vancouver, working in various restaurants along the way.
“At that point I was kind of done with kitchens and the political aspects where they treat people like numbers,” he said. “I felt like I was hitting a creative block.”
But when the job at The Acorn came up, he applied, feeling his creativity regenerate as he contemplated developing new menu ideas built exclusively around vegetables.
“My goal was to create flavour-forward food, to fully expand the mind and look at food in a different light,” he explains. “Because we’re limited to vegetables, we’re always searching for new flavours. We’ll try roasting, stewing, dehydrating. We’ll look at what can be used for seasoning or whether a food can be shaved over pasta. We want to elevate the cuisine.”
Luptak isn’t alone on his quest for veggie bliss.
“We have about 12 employees,” he explains, “people from Germany, Chile, France and Australia. We bank ideas off each other and our chef de cuisine, Devon Latte – his mind does not stop!”
In addition to The Acorn, a sister restaurant, the Arbor, opened three years ago and Luptak created its menu as well. It’s less fine dining and more of a playful lunch and dinner spot, he explains. The food is still very creative with a lot of flavour and completely vegetarian.
“Moving to the west coast changed me,” Luptak divulges. “The ingredients here are amazing. I just got a shipment of Matsutake mushrooms yesterday, which are highly sought after in Japan and grow wild in B.C. forests. Seaweed, mushrooms and corn have really had an influence on me since moving here.”
Luptak tries to use the abundant west coast growing season to its full potential working with his staff to create new menu items each week. And he’s in the middle of writing a cookbook with Acorn owner Shira Blustein which will likely be released in the fall of 2020.
With the emerging acceptance of plant-based eating, the popularity of restaurants like The Acorn and Arbor are set to soar. The potential for new flavours and dishes is virtually endless. It’s clear there are further heights for Luptak to reach and he’s poised to take advantage of that unlimited potential.