Whoever says you can’t have the best of both worlds hasn’t been to the new Wild Rice restaurant in New Westminster’s River Market. Imagine traditional-tasting Chinese food infused with delicacies from other countries and prepared with modern cooking techniques; you have Wild Rice. One of the most appealing aspects there, aside from the friendly, attentive staff, spic and span, wide open kitchen where you can watch chefs make your meal, and the chic, modern look and feel of the lounge and dining area, is the fact that you know where your food is coming from and how it’s being processed.
Todd Bright, Australian-born head chef of Wild Rice, plunged his hands quite literally into the world of cooking. He started off with washing dishes with onion bag scrubbers at a local Chinese restaurant in Australia and worked his way up to cooking woks of fried rice and deep frying food. He then shifted his studies from business software and development to a culinary apprenticeship with the Technical and Further Education colleges, a four year process that gained him experience in the field. He then took time to travel for a few years and finally landed in Canada in 2007 where he started his career as a line cook with Wild Rice in Vancouver.
All About Food
Since Todd became head chef, he decided to make a positive influence on the way Wild Rice affects the environment and local community. “What I try and do is take traditional elements and traditional dishes and turn them on their heads and incorporate as much local and sustainable produce as possible. We change our menu four times a year to be seasonal so we can use the best of the local produce.” Aside from buying from local companies such as Two Rivers and Serving House, Wild Rice is also a member of Ocean Wise, Green Table Society, Shark Truth and Recycling Alternative. As much as these decisions may cost him a little bit more, Todd affirms that supporting local farmers is “something I believe in.”
Wild Rice also caters to a wide variety of people. The menu is dairy-free, gluten-free and focuses on vegan-friendly dishes. “The food we do here is unlike any other food around… it’s creative and it’s uniquely west coast. 52% of our menu is vegan.” Todd’s mantra: “eat more vegetables; eat less, better quality meat.” One dish that he is exceptionally proud of is the Grilled King Oyster Mushroom dinner plate complete with cashews, caramelized ricotta and scallion polenta fries. “It hits all the buttons: texture and fat from the cashews, meatiness from the mushroom and crispiness from the fries. It can satisfy a meat eater and fully satisfy a vegan.”
New Westminster to Call Home
When asked why he decided to set up Wild Rice at the River Market, he simply said, “It is such a unique community out here. What better place to start a new Wild Rice to engage a community that is up-and-coming and growing where there is longevity and to be attached to a market we believe in.”
This is Wild Rice’s first year teaming up with RCFM for their 5th annual fundraiser. “I’m looking forward to making that one-on-one bond with the farmers [at RCFM]. That’s really exciting. It’s just going to be great at the fundraiser to show the vendors what we are all about.” The dishes at the fundraiser night vary from chicken to pork to vegan. His inspiration for the set dishes was “using the farmers’ market suppliers with [his] twist on things. [He tried] to make it as simple and enjoyable as possible.”
Todd recommends the House Made Chinese BBQ Pork that is served on a bed of jasmine rice with steamed broccoli and bok choy. I highly suggest picking this dish on fundraiser night if you like or can eat pork. I took a lunch box to go and couldn’t put it down! And as for the seasonally inspired cocktails that will be served with dinner, a “floral and berry infused gin complete with muddled strawberries will take centre stage, as well as traditional sangrias.
When asked what he was expecting from his first RCFM fundraiser event, Todd simply said, “The whole thing about the fundraiser is getting people engaged. I’m just looking forward to interacting with the community and the farmers market and just speaking to people who are as passionate with what they do as I am.” The night promises to be one filled with new experiences, new friendships and Chinese take-out boxes.
Teach Me How to Cook!
Wild Rice also hosts an interactive cooking demonstration every Monday night at the River Market location You can sit at the chef’s table, look into the kitchen as Todd runs through a few different cooking techniques then sit in the dining room for a four-course meal. He cooks up something new each month, with poultry, seafood and shellfish already covered this year. This month is all about pork, while June is focused on Vegan dishes, and July (which Todd is especially looking forward to) is BBQ on the patio. Take a look here for more information on cooking demos!
We hope to see you at RCFM’s 5th Annual Fundraiser! Tickets are still available here.