Robert Belcham is sure one of the most interesting Chefs in the Vancouver food history who currently has 2 of his restaurants, Campagnolo and Monarch Burger on foodora. We recently had the chance to sit down with him to talk about how he got involved in so many great restaurants that shaped Vancouver’s perspective on food. Meet Robert Belcham…
(f): Tell me about yourself. Are you from here? Tell me about the journey that brought you here.
“I was born in Edmonton, AB, grew up in Peace River in Northern Alberta. I started cooking at age 21 in Victoria, BC when I moved there for culinary school.
I love Victoria! I ended up staying there for 7 years working in different restaurants, then moved to San Francisco to Silicon Valley, working as a private Chef for the dotcom millionaires.
My wife and I came back to Vancouver because we wanted to start a family together.
First when I came to Vancouver, I worked with Chef Robert Clark as his Sous Chef. Harry Kambolis was the owner of the restaurant and he wanted us to push the boundaries as far as we could when it came to the food. That was super exciting for me!”
(f): Do you remember the moment when you decided to be a Chef? What are some other jobs you’ve done in the past? Did you always see cooking as your career path?
“I worked lots of different jobs after high school such as construction and electrical. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a living. I had aspirations to play football but it wasn’t really something I thought I could do.
One day, I was looking at my girlfriend’s university brochure and it had cooking in it as one of the programs. I cooked a lot at home growing up and watched great Chefs on TV but I didn’t know there were cooking schools. I had no idea about fancy restaurants, didn’t know that was a thing.
First day of culinary school I will never forget. The instructor told us about his career as a Chef and I was blown away by the fact that you could build a career out of cooking. The idea of coming to work every day and learning something new was amazing to me.
I was always a C student in school my entire life but I went to culinary school and I was at high 90’s at every class and I was just like “I guess I’m okay at this”. I just dove in head first and never looked back.”
(f): The mostt memorable moment that you never forgot in the kitchen?
“Lots of things happen in the kitchen because it’s a high pressure environment. I think what matters the most is not the good times or bad times but it’s the people. People who work at restaurants are a different breed and they make the pressure of the kitchen so tolerable because you meet the most interesting, crazy, loveable people with the most integrity. Every great attribute you see in the human kind, you can find in the kitchen and I love that aspect of it.”
(f): Name one Chef alive or passed away that you would want to cook side by side?
“There are lots!
I’d love to cook again with my mentor Robert Clark. I love cooking with him because he is just an amazing Chef.
If I were to choose someone from the past, then I would probably say Fernand Point. Not very many people know about him but he is a classic French Chef from 1920s, 1930s who just loved life and food.”
(f): What was your first restaurant? What are some of the other restaurants you were involved in so far?
“The first restaurant I opened was “Fuel” (Fine Dining) in 2006, then “Campagnolo”(Northern Italian) in 2008, “Campagnolo Roma”(Italian) in 2011, then “Fat Dragon”(pan-Asian BBQ) in 2013, opened a bar “Upstairs”(Cocktail Bar) in 2014 because we had a floor we rarely used on top of Campagnolo and wanted to open a bar that I personally would want to go where you could have a conversation over amazing cocktails. We made a secret burger at “Upstairs” that became overly popular, which inspired the final restaurant I opened called “Monarch Burger”(Burger Joint) in 2017. All in Vancouver.”
(f): Any other plans of opening a new restaurant?
“Im opening a new one this summer called “Popina”. It’s going to be me and 3 other Chefs from Vancouver. Chef Angus An who owns 5 restaurants, Chef Hamid Salimian who was a part of Culinary Team Canada and Chef Joel Watanabe who owns Kissa Tanto.
We are opening up a container style restaurant in Vancouver Island. We want to take our experience in fine dining and ingredient driven cuisines and make it accessible to everyone.”
(f): What cuisine is most unusual to to you? Why?
“Any cuisine where you eat bugs I find it unusual. Maybe it’s a phobia from when I was a kid but when bugs are the main protein part of a meal, I find it odd. That said I’ve been lucky to study lots of different cuisines so nothing really shocks me anymore.”
(f): If you were a topping what would you be?
“I would be the meat! 2 most important things on a burger are the meat and the bun. I would be the meat.”
(f): What’s your guilty pleasure?
(f): Yam Fries or French Fries
French fries! Yam fries are an abomination…
(f): Coffee or Tea
(f): Wine or Beer
(f): Sweet or Savoury
“Depends on my mood. I equally love both. Salted Caramel.”
(f): Ketchup or Mayo
“Mayo by far. Mayo is the mother off all sauces!”
(f): How is foodora helping your business?
“I see the most benefit for our customer base. They get to enjoy the food they love more often! I get that a lot from the people who use foodora and are regulars. They like the convenience of opening up the foodora app or the website and ordering whatever their heart desires after a long day at work which is awesome! I did it last night! I am a regular too!”