Morgan Lechner, executive chef at the Pacific Gateway Hotel (3500 Cessna Dr.), knew from a young age that his dream was to cook for a living. “At six-years-old, I told my mom and grandma and whoever else would listen that I wanted to be a chef,” he explains. Since then, Lechner earned his Red Seal Certification at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and has worked at a variety of establishments, including the Banffshire Club and A Kettle of Fish (now closed). He’s been at the Pacific Gateway Hotel for a decade.
Pier 73’s Executive Chef Morgan Lechner and Executive Sous Chef Edison Antejos. (PHOTO: TARA LEE)
Lechner sat down to chat with us at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Pier 73, along with Edison Antejos, the executive sous chef. A born and bred Richmondite, Antejos basically lives and breathes all things Richmond. In fact, his first job was as a sandwich artist at Subway in Blundell Centre. Other places on his resume include Showcase Restaurant & Bar at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown, Grand Bay Café at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort & Conference Centre, and Griffins (now closed) at The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.
There’s definite camaraderie and respect between this dynamic culinary duo, who share a passion for sustainable and local ingredients. “Especially at the restaurant, our focus is on ethically raised proteins and sustainable fish. In the last four or five years, knowing where my food comes from has been more important than anything to me,” says Lechner. Some of the local producers they source from include Mogiana Coffee, Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, Barnston Island Herbs, Gelderman Farms, and Rick Burns, the skipper of Pacific Provider. The restaurant also has eighteen beers on tap, the majority of which are local craft options, including the Old Boy Classic Ale from Parallel 49 Brewing.
Both chefs are part of the Growing Chefs! program that gives kids hands-on experience growing produce as well as learning how to cook.
Lechner and Antejos are particularly proud of their teaching at James McKinney Elementary School as part of Growing Chefs!, a program that provides kids with hands-on experience with agriculture and cooking. “We grow in the windows of their classrooms and we bring in a ton of stuff to eat. We’re basically having them sample different things, which is the cool part for me,” says Lechner. The kids try everything from carrots bought at a farmers market, to wild ramps and fiddleheads that have been foraged.
“They’re our future. If we instill them with that knowledge, hopefully, some of them will take that to heart,” says Antejos. As part of their commitment to the program, at Pier 73, $1 from every order of Pacific Provider wild salmon ($28), with crispy eggplant, green pea spaetzle, roasted cauliflower, kale, and girondine sauce, is donated to the Growing Chefs! Program. As a special treat, Lechner has shared a recipe for his green pea ice cream (see below!) if you’re interested in recreating the dish at home.
Where the Chefs Eat in Richmond
Chef Lechner raves about the Indian food at Tandoori Kona. (PHOTO: LINDSAY ANDERSON)
Antejos particularly raves about the Asian food in the city. Over the holidays, he recommends going to Empire Seafood Restaurant (200-5951 No. 3 Rd.) for dim sum, or G-Men @ NanChuu (1160-8391 Alexandra Rd.) for Japanese eats. He also suggests L.A. Chicken (11780 Thorpe Rd.) for takeout (“because it’s tasty chicken”) and CAVU Kitchen Bar (Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel, 5911 Minoru Blvd.) for a more elegant meal. Lechner, meanwhile, raves about the Indian food at Tandoori Kona (11700 Cambie Rd.), and is also a fan of Tapenade (3711 Bayview St.) and Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant (3866 Bayview St.).
If you’re not feeling up to roasting a turkey for Christmas Day, you can book at Hemisphere North, located on the lobby level of the Hotel, for a special three course dinner ($35), which includes a choice between parsnip and apple soup or winter greens; traditional roast turkey dinner, pork loin schnitzel, or braised short rib; and warm cranberry apple pie in a jar or dark chocolate pistachio paté. Up until December 24th, Pier 73 will also be offering themed festive burgers, like The Rudolph, an elk burger with caramelized onion, cranberry BBQ sauce, and blue cheese ($17, pictured below).
Try the Rudolph, one of Pier 73’s special festive burgers, comprised of an elk patty, caramelized onions and cranberry barbecue sauce.
For his own Christmas dinner, Lechner will be cooking for his wife, Joanne, and his 11-year-old son Logan and nine-year-old daughter Kora. On the menu will be roast chicken and dried berry and sausage brioche stuffing.
For the first time in 15 years, Antejos won’t be working Christmas day and will go to his parents’ where his mom will prepare a feast for the family. Besides baked ham and mashed potatoes, there’ll be some traditional Filipino dishes, like dinuguan (pork blood stew). “One of the requests we made is for chicken mami, which is basically a Filipino ramen, with chicken broth, pulled chicken, burnt garlic, scallions, and noodles,” explains Antejos. Maybe if you’re nice enough, he’ll get an invite for you. Both chefs are looking forward to a well-deserved day off with their loved ones and lots of good food.
Green Pea Ice Cream Recipe
Yields approx. 1 liter
- 1/2 pound peas
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar (Increase sugar if you want a slightly sweeter pea ice cream)
Fill medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add in the peas and cook for about 2 minutes. Strain the peas and immediately add them to a bowl with ice water to stop the cooking and retain the bright green color.
After a minute or two, strain the peas from the ice water and pat them down with a paper towel to remove excess water. Add the peas to a large bowl with the cream and set aside.
Whip together egg yolks in a separate bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine milk and sugar over medium heat. Just before the milk begins to simmer, pour about half of it into the bowl of egg yolks, adding a half a cup at a time and stirring constantly. Gradually pour the egg mixture back into the milk saucepan.
Continue to stir constantly until liquid thickens into a custard and coats the back of a spoon (Do not over heat or eggs will scramble). Remove from heat.
Pour the milk into the bowl with the cream and peas. Chill in refrigerator or using an ice bath. When cold, use a blender to puree the peas until smooth. Pass the custard through a sieve to make sure it is smooth.
Churn in ice cream maker until consistency of soft serve ice cream and freeze in a bucket.