15 Minutes with Juniper Chef Sarah Stewart

April 4, 2016
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Once known for dive bars, Chinese herbal shops and rickety grocery stores, Chinatown is rapidly morphing into a destination for creative, design-savvy restaurateurs with hordes of hungry patrons in tow.

Juniper Kitchen & Bar has it all. A space designed by Simcic & Uhrich featuring an eye-catching bar with four dining spaces beaming outwards, raw concrete, and beech wood bones with copper fixtures drawing attention upward to the surf/skate inspired concave ceilings. Cocktails, spirits, wine and beers poised to please fancy and traditional tastes with an ever-evolving Canadiana-inspired menu.

We sat down with Juniper‘s Executive Chef, Sarah Stewart to talk about her culinary heroes, her approach to creating an inspiring menu and where to start when ordering your first feast at Juniper.

Menu inspiration

What inspires me most is the people I’ve worked with and the suppliers who provide me with beautiful food items. Each person you work with offers new skills and each dish you create is the story of everyone who has shared something with you. When you combine those with the human connection to the ingredients, it is the most inspiring to me. I love spending time in the woods. In Ontario, I spent a lot of time with forager friends. As I have more time and learn more about the bounty of BC, I will integrate that into the menu.

Culinary heroes

My culinary hero is author, poet and forager, Susan Musgrave, owner of the Copper Beech House B&B on Haida Gwaii. I’ve been reading her since I was a teenager. I just read her book A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World. I’d love to go mushroom picking with her. We’d make a simple meal of toasted homemade sour dough bread with butter and sautéed shallots and winter mushrooms. We’d sip tea and I’d ask her all about her life.

I am also really inspired by the mentors I had in Toronto, Anne Yarymowich and Jeff Dueck, among others. I’m inspired by their creativity, use of local food and dedication to their staff. They worked to create places where young chefs could advance skill sets and grow as people. Happy, inspired chefs work harder and better. I strive to instill the same joy in cooking they gave me, and give my staff every opportunity to be creative and happy in their careers.

First feast at Juniper

The charcuterie board is a terrific intro. We have a very talented butcher I get to work with in the kitchen named Johnny and he’s doing incredible things on the charcuterie boards. These are combined with house pickles and homemade seed crackers.

Drink of choice

I order off the menu (perks of being the chef!). I love the Stanley Park (Brokers gin, Chartreuse, lemon, basil, egg white and celery bitters). There is something about celery bitters that I just can’t get enough of. When I am not being fancy, I harken back to Toronto cooking days and drink good ol’ Jameson’s on the rocks.

Getting away from it all

I will take any chance I get to go explore a forested area, which BC has so much of. I‘ve been here a little over a year and have spent much of it opening a new restaurant, so I look forward to finding more balance and getting a chance to really see more of its beauty.