One of Sean Greenlay’s early memories of food involves his father whipping up classic comfort dishes at home. “My dad didn’t do a lot of cooking around the house but whenever there was spaghetti to be made, it was always him. I remember watching him and saying, ‘Hey, can I help?’” He also thinks fondly back on his uncle’s butcher shop where he would lend a hand periodically. Since then, Greenlay, the executive chef at Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant (140-3866 Bayview Street) in Steveston, has worked hard, with passion and dedication, in order to build a successful career as a chef.
Greenlay learned the value of hard work when he started working at McDonald’s when he was fifteen. During his seven years there, he worked the whole gamut of positions, including cook and eventually, manager. Asked about his biggest takeaway from McDonald’s, Greenlay replies, “It was the work ethic. It was non-stop go go go.”
After his stint at the fast food chain, Greenlay toyed with other jobs, considering becoming a radio DJ and working briefly as a bank teller, but the fast pace and adrenaline of the food industry was in his blood. A turning point was when he read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, a raw no holds barred exposé on working in a kitchen. “All of sudden I looked at being a cook differently. Before it was a way to make money, but I realized that people look at chefs as rock stars. Being a cook is a skilled trade,” he explains.
Greenlay has not looked back since. He went on to work at well-known chains, such as Cactus Club Cafe and Browns Socialhouse; did catering gigs; and earned his Red Seal. He says that his experience at chain restaurants gave him practical skills to complement his creativity and talent: “They taught you how to run the business first.”
Greenlay has been at the helm of Blue Canoe for six months now, gradually reshaping the menu to reflect his accessible culinary style. “I know what people like. I want to put on the menu items that will make people say, ‘Oh my God. That’s fantastic. I need to have that all the time. I need to go back for that.'”
A few weeks ago, the restaurant launched a new menu, with crowd-pleasing items with inventive tweaks on familiar dishes. For example, the California sushi stack is a play on a California roll, with sushi rice topped with PEI crab, avocado, cucumber, wasabi aioli, tobiko, and nori strips ($15.95, pictured below).
Other new offerings include a beef tenderloin carpaccio with grainy Dijon aioli, crispy capers, pickled leeks, arugula, grana padano, and roasted garlic crostini ($15.50); and a tuna poke jar, with albacore tuna, daikon slaw, sriracha aioli, and taro root chips ($15.50). The latter was inspired by a dish that he had at Seasucker Restaurant during a recent trip to Las Vegas.
“I’m big on comfort food,” declares Greenlay, who has an especial weakness for risotto. The pan seared halibut with citrus beurre blanc and seasonal veg features crispy parmesan risotto cakes ($31.95), and the pan seared scallops are served with cauliflower mousseline and root vegetable risotto ($29.85) that’s pink from beet juice.
Greenlay is committed to sourcing locally and sustainably whenever possible. The restaurant is part of the Ocean Wise program, and purchases from local suppliers and producers, like Cherry Lane Farm in Richmond, Albion Fisheries in Richmond, and Blake Lundstrum Farms in Delta.
He’s delighted to be working in Steveston, particularly due to the restaurant’s stunning waterfront location.
“I love the little town feel. It seems like a real community. I walk through the village and I know people and the regular customers,” he says. After work, you might find Greenlay at nearby Tapenade Bistro (3711 Bayview Street) or Kove Kitchen (140-3900 Bayview Street). He plans to try out Gudrun Tasting Room (150-3500 Moncton Street) very soon. Greenlay also spends his off-time playing golf and baseball, as well as hanging out with his wife and six-year-old son.
The most rewarding part of his job is sharing his skills and passion for food with others. “What I like best is mentoring and training. I love taking someone who’s never worked in a restaurant before and teaching them.” At Browns Socialhouse, he hired a guy with zero restaurant experience as a dishwasher, who, two years later, just got promoted to chef there. Greenlay is excited to do similar mentoring at Blue Canoe, as well as continue to create great dishes that will be perfect for enjoying on the patio as the weather warms up.
Sean Greenlay’s Recipe for Halibut Piccata
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup powdered parmesan
- zest of 3 lemons
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 x 6 oz halibut filet
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 clove garlic minced
- 3/4 cup white wine
- juice of 3 lemons
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp capers (drained and patted dry)
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- Whisk egg and milk together in a bowl and set aside.
- Combine breadcrumb, parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and salt in bowl.
- Dip halibut filets in egg mixture and then dredge in panko mix.
- In a pan at medium heat, add olive oil and cook halibut approximately 4 min per side and remove from pan.
- In a sauce pan, add butter and garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in wine, lemon juice, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil for approximately 8 mins (until reduced by half). Stir in capers, parsley, and butter until melted. Serve over fish.