Dining & Wine

Celebrating Asian Heritage Month: Fanny Bay Executive Chef Tommy Shorthouse

May 2, 2024

We’re celebrating Asian Heritage Month by profiling some of our favourite professionals in Vancouver’s restaurant and food industry, like Fanny Bay executive chef Tommy Shorthouse. Oh, and their favourite recipes, too!  —Vita Daily

Can you share a bit about your personal journey as a chef and how your Asian heritage has influenced your culinary style and approach to cooking?

I have been working in the industry for 17 years now. I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing chefs and at some of Vancouvers most iconic restaurants. While working in these restaurants, I definitely saw a lot of asian influences on multiple aspects of the menu regardless of where I was working. Being born in Taiwan and moving to Vancouver, Canada at a young age, I had a lot of exposure to Chinese and other asian cuisines and as I grew up. Throughout my childhood, I grew more and more curious as to why the cuisines and food varied and how they were prepared. While working in kitchens, I was able to see how some of these preparations were done and through attempting to replicate the flavours for myself at home. Since starting my journey in the industry, I have found my own unique cooking style. It is taking a simple and humble dish or recipe and refining them into an elevated format. I definitely see some asian influence on the menu that I now prepare at Fanny Bay Oyster Bar and I know that I will continue to do so throughout my future in the industry.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary arts, and how have your cultural roots shaped your culinary identity and the dishes you create?

 I was originally inspired to pursue a career in culinary arts and restaurants thanks to my Grandmother. It was very amazing to see her prepare food from scratch for a family of 5 and have it all pair well together, but also have it all ready at the same time and balanced. Since starting in the industry I have always drawn inspiration from many cuisines and cooking styles. Being trained in classical French cooking techniques in culinary school, I saw similarities in how other cooking styles were similar, with the exception of the use of different ingredients. I draw a lot of inspiration from the seasons, smells and even colours or shapes. I like how it sparks an idea or how it makes me feel. I find myself trying to recreate that feeling utilizing my own cooking philosophy/ style. Elevated comfort food utilizing West Coast ingredients with at times asian or other regional influence. 

In what ways do you incorporate elements of your cultural background into your culinary creations? Are there specific ingredients, techniques, or flavors that hold particular significance for you?

I incorporate asian influneces into my cooking or recipes in very minimalistic way. Asian flavours can be very powerful if used incorrectly. My goal is to find a way to incorporate it to accentuate the food or the dish I have in mind. A great example of this is the Chili Crab featuring local Dungeness Crab with a chili sauce that is a blend of 3 different regional styles of preparing the same dish. (Singaporean, Malaysian and Chinese). The recipe blends the ingredients commonly found in these three preparations to become the sauce that is used. 

Vancouver is known for its diverse culinary scene. How do you navigate blending traditional Asian flavors with contemporary techniques to create innovative and unique dishes that resonate with diners?

While not being an expert in asian cuisine or cooking techniques I do my best to incorporate asian flavours if and whenever possible. I do this in a way that doesn’t overpower or overwhelm the food and allows the main ingredient to still be the star. I would add flavours to compliment or accentuate the main ingredient. By doing this I have a blend of flavors that isn’t solely Asian over another. Based on the dish that I would like to prepare, I will use the best technique or preparation to bring out the best outcome for the ingredients to allow them to be the star. In my opinion, “Fresh is best and less is more”.

As we celebrate Asian Heritage Month, what message or story do you hope to convey through your cuisine, and how do you see food as a powerful medium for cultural expression and understanding?

As we celebrate Asian Heritage Month my hope is that I have been able to impact the community and the guests that visit the restaurant through my unique style of cooking and the blend of flavours from the East and the West. Food is a very powerful thing. It brings people together and it evokes memories simply from seeing it, a smell or even a specific taste. I am very grateful that people like my food and I am able to prepare the food that I have found that best suites my particular blend of cooking styles and aesthetics. 

Chili Crab Recipe

25g (2 tbsp)       Lemongrass (finely chopped)
50g (6 cloves)    Chopped Garlic
30g (2 tbsp)       Finely chopped Ginger
85g (3 large)      Shallots (finely chopped)
1 Jar (300mL)     Chinese Tomato- Chili sauce
2 tbsp                 Prepared chili oil
70g (4 tbsp)        Brown Sugar
70g (4 tbsp)        Honey
550g (2 Cups)     Tomato Ketchup
½                       Orange Zested
2                        Small Red Thai chili (chopped fine)
50ml                   Chinese cooking wine
½ Cup                 Chinese Shrimp and scallop XO sauce 

In medium Sauce pot heat up Chili oil and sweat lemongrass, ginger, shallots, and red chili until tender and fragrant. Add the Chinese cooking wine, sugar, honey, XO sauce and Tomato- chili sauce and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low heat while stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and using a Hand blender, blend sauce until smooth consistency has been reached. The sauce is then heated and used to toss with the prepared crab. It can also be used for broiled white fish, Grilled Oysters or Squid.


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