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Best Pastry Chef

Kenta Takahashi

Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

Vancouver, B.C.

Sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada

KENTA TAKAHASHI is not interested in TikTok sweet-treat trends. The Vancouver-based pastry chef takes a more understated approach to the craft of dessert making. He strives simply to perfect the basics of French pastry. However, he is all about the why. Why are certain desserts loved the world over?

The classically trained Takahashi held posts in Tokyo and Kanagawa before coming to Canada and working under pâtissier and chocolatier Thierry Busset. Today, the 34-year-old is the pastry lead at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar and directs the dessert buffet at Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver. In Takahashi’s hands, “basic” pavlova becomes edible sculpture. A paper-thin meringue half-dome is filled with whipped cream and ripe mango, dollops of mango sorbet and semifreddo, jasmine-tea ice cream, and more ripe fruit. Meringue buttons dot the top.

Chef Takahashi strives to incite reaction from a guest, a moment not unlike the one that set him on his own path, when he tasted the sweets at Tokyo’s La Vieille France. Just one bite of its madeleines, financiers and a classic opera cake changed his world. “I felt something special. It was super simple stuff — any pastry shop sells the same thing, but I thought, Wow, that’s different.”

Currently, he’s thinking about rhubarb. “Everyone will make a rhubarb pie, but why do people like it?” he wonders aloud. “There’s the acidity, the flavour, the nice red colour, and the tasty texture in combination with the rich pie dough.” But what would make it even better?

His solution: a delicately textured strawberry rhubarb millefeuille and — maybe — a hint of rosewater. The element of scent elevates a dish. “The perfume, the aromatic flavours — they create an impression that stays in the memory for so long.”

Longer, much longer, than TikTok trends. For this, we are fortunate.

—Deborah Fulsang

Photos: Leila Kwok

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