Miki Ellis and Stephen Whiteside
Dachi, Elephant and Hanai, Vancouver

The great ones make it look easy. Drop by Dachi on any given night and you’ll probably see Miki Ellis or Stephen Whiteside milling about, effortlessly attending to everyone’s needs—and, for a second, you’ll think I could do that in the same way that watching Steph Curry draining three-pointers at a pre-game practice makes basketball seem simple, too. Ditto at Elephant, where, notwithstanding the fact that chef Justin Lee is creating one of the most ambitious tasting menus in Vancouver for an insanely low tariff, there’s no sense of artiste tension pervading the easygoing space. And don’t even get us started on the brand-new Hanai, where Chef Tess Bevernage’s spirit of Aloha brings the fun factor to 11.

Miki Ellis and Stephen Whiteside. Photo by Leila Kwok.
Miki Ellis and Stephen Whiteside. Photo by Leila Kwok.

The sense of ease is amped up even further by the tendency of the self-deprecating duo to spotlight their collaborators as the reason for their restaurants’ successes… yet, despite that ample quick praise, at a certain juncture you realize that they are the common denominator. But behind all that self-erasure beat the hearts of two industry vets who’ve opened huge rooms and managed big budgets—always based on the same recipe of serious elbow grease (“I’ve gotten really good at electrical,” confides Ellis), even more serious passion, and an overwhelming faith in letting good people do great work.

Food for Thought with Miki

What was a food-related skill you discovered or mastered during the pandemic?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I made these brownies every day. It was a ridiculous home recipe that was not scaled up for the volume, so I would make several batches daily, and they were so expensive and time-consuming it made no sense! But the daily routine of it was somewhat grounding amid the chaos of the times.

Best movie scene dealing with food?

Spirited Away, with the pigs gorging on everything.

Once travel is fully up and running, where’s the one restaurant you’d love to travel to?

To visit Darren and Nana in Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan!

Your perfect dessert?

Love an opera cake!

THE WHOLE STORY: Introducing Western Living’s 2022 Foodies of the Year