Staff Spotlight: Geoff Carkner, Executive Chef
Welcome to our Staff Spotlight blog series! This is where you’ll meet the people behind the Hotel. With over 400 associates working at Pan Pacific Vancouver, there are a lot of personalities and a lot of stories to tell!
Today we shine the spotlight on Executive Chef Geoff Carkner, who brings a tremendous depth of experience and a passion for playful innovation to his new position at Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel. Originally from Vancouver, Carkner has worked for high profile properties in British Columbia and Australia. Most recently, Carkner was the Executive Chef at the Westin Melbourne where the restaurant was twice voted the best hotel dining in Australia.
Hi Geoff! Tell us about yourself.
I was born in North Van, raised in Vancouver and I have lived in New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, and the Gold Coast. I am sure to add to that list before all is said and done. My kids are the most important non Canucks part of my life.
How long have you been with Pan Pacific Vancouver?
Just over three months.
What’s a typical day at work like?
I”m supposed to say that there is no such thing as a typical day in this role and it’s true, but I do have a few daily routines that I stick to. I start by doing my rounds of each area and see how everyone is doing and who needs support. We have some daily operational meetings to over things, like business volumes and key information for today and the coming days to share with the team and then the rest of my day is determined by the flow of business and what events we have on and how busy the restaurant is. During quieter times, we get the opportunity to plan and prepare, so that we can evolve the product for our guests and make improvements in our processes for our team.
What’s your favourite part about your job?
Chefs on our team bringing me food to taste. I also enjoy getting praised, can never have enough praise.
What are the most challenging aspects about your job?
Wearing a lot of hats at once and being pulled in different directions at times can be a challenge, but that’s also what makes it fun.
Being innovative, using good, quality ingredients and staying true to flavours are important to you. Can you share with us the process and what inspires you when coming up with a creative menu?
Start with quality ingredients, then try to figure out the best way to cook them to get the most flavour. Keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Share your ideas with your team and never stop trying new things. There’s a lot of information out there these days to learn new techniques. Try something you haven’t done before, then put your own spin on it.
You’ve worked as executive chef at Westin Melbourne. How does the food scene in Australia compare to Vancouver?
They too, have an eclectic dining scene, but their food has more of a British influence. You won’t find a lot of Mexican flavours there, but southeast Asian and middle eastern flavours are extremely popular. There is outstanding seafood and produce available year round and it’s a very dynamic and competitive food scene in Melbourne. I was actually going to say that generally they have very refined palettes, but then I remember that almost all Australians hate root beer.
Do you enjoy dining out? What’s your favourite thing to order?
I used to enjoy dining out before I had kids, but they usually destroy the place and won’t sit still. When I do go out, typically, I look for the most interesting dish on the menu, hopefully a flavour combination I haven’t tried before. Sometimes I like to get a bunch of appetizers, rather than a main, so I can try more things.
How experimental are you when you cook for you family? What’s your favourite thing to make? Or rather, what’s the meal that’s most requested at home?
Moderate. And fajitas, fajitas. My wife does most of the cooking actually and she is often trying new things, and on occasion, I even steal her ideas and use them at work. So basically, I am the one making all the requests!
Do you watch cooking shows? If yes, which one(s) are your favourite?
I like the series, Mind of a Chef and even though I haven’t seen it in a while, I also like Top Chef.
Last question! What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?
When I’m not practising jiu jitsu, surfing, or rock climbing, I like to put my feet up and watch hockey and football. Tha’s what I’d like to do, but more often than not, I’m just doing whatever my kids tell me to do.