Jackie Ellis from Beaucoup Bakery has infused her irresistible pastries perfectly with the flavors of Vancouver's cultural diversity.
The fantastic Beaucoup bakery is a block away from Granville Island, a place about which it is impossible not to use the word “melting pot” – so I won’t try. This former industrial area, in the shadow of a huge grid-like road bridge spanning False Creek, has been transformed into a foodie’s paradise with a busy market and shore-side dining. Visitors and locals mingle in a lovely setting that is unmistakably in the city yet also somehow feels apart from it. The island is larger than it looks, and a walk around finds me stumbling on zany art workshops and quirky souvenir shops. This is the place to find a pirate’s chest or a hand-carved totem pole.
That tolerance is a theme I find myself returning to a few days later when I meet with the baker from Beaucoup, Jackie Ellis. One unmistakable contribution from the Asian influx, which also includes large numbers from Japan, Korea and The Philippines, is the city’s food and Jackie uses her own Chinese roots as inspiration for original flavor combinations in her award-winning cakes. Born in Vancouver, she studied pastry-making in Paris before coming home to open the popular Beaucoup Bakery, famed for its authentic French-style, butter-rich croissants.
“I have been trying to define Vancouver’s culinary identity and it almost impossible because there are so many cultures in the mix,” she says. “At the bakery we have lemon tart, which is very French, but we put Asian flavors in it. Vancouver’s food is completely infused with similar Asian influences. There are so many great sushi, ramen or Korean food places and the Chinese food is off the charts.
"The fusion is so deep that everybody here knows how to use chopsticks – it is just not a thing.”
As I try, unsuccessfully, to keep my shirt free of crumbs while eating some of her delicate pastries, we talk more about this Chinese influx. “Asian people sometimes now feel like a majority in Vancouver,” she says. “At school, I was one of the few Asian kids, but Richmond is now almost completely all Asian. I have relatives here who do not speak any English but get by. When immigrants were the minority, the onus was on them to understand the Canadian culture, but now there are so many there is not that pressure to fit in.” This cultural mix, so inseparable to the Vancouver of today, creates the unique flavors in the city's cuisine and at my favorite bakery, Beaucoup Bakery.