Chef Profile: Bardia Ilbeiggi
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 print issue of Quench Magazine.
What’s a young math whiz at IBM with a Bachelor of Engineering in Aerospace (with high honours, of course) to do after work each day? “I was either watching the Food Network or cooking stuff in my tiny kitchenette,” recalls Chef Bardia Ilbeiggi, who opened Delara in Vancouver, British Columbia this summer.
“I quickly realized my passion for creativity, and I enjoyed working with my hands. While cooking lots at home, I started researching how to become a chef, read inspiring stories about successful chefs, then gravitated towards the dream of becoming a chef and having my own restaurant. I had the choice between comfort and passion – I chose the latter!”
And so, by 2011, Bardia was off to France for a 6-month Intensive Professional Program in French Cuisine at École Grégoire-Ferrand, and a 6-month stint at Frenchie in Paris — a modern bistro made famous by Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.
Back in Vancouver, Bardia honed his kitchen powers at L’Abattoir for four years, followed by another three at Farmer’s Apprentice. His endless curiosity even led him to the recently closed one-Michelin starred Relæ in Copenhagen, Denmark for a stage.
Fast-forward to 2021 and the mounds of fresh, fragrant herbs, strawberry jam-making sessions, and grilled eggplant on the fire, all reminiscent of his mother’s kitchen during his childhood, are very much alive on Canada’s west coast in the newly opened Delara.
ARDIA ILBEIGGI ON HIS NEW RESTAURANT
Delara is a love letter to my heritage. The name lit-erally means ‘she who brings beauty to the heart.’ The philosophy behind it is simple: humble and thoughtful Persian food and hospitality. At the same time, I’m hoping to push some boundaries with Persian cuisine as well. I think we should always try to progress. Tradition is lovely, but paired with creativity, you can find magic.
ON SUPPORTING LOCAL:
Once you work with local and seasonal ingredi-ents and establish relationships with amazing, hard-working farmers, there’s no way back. Even though most common Persian dishes originate from a warmer climate, I’m interpreting the cuisine through the lens of seasons and what’s available at the time. This way we’ll have the highest quality ingredients to work with while we keep it exciting for the kitchen when we come up with new dishes. I hope that this will resonate with the customers as well.
ON THE FUTURE:
I love teaching. I think mentorship is something that most chefs are too busy to think about. I real-ly hope cooking and the hospitality industry can gain a better reputation. Myself, other chefs and restaurateurs need to create kind and respectful environments where we can get young cooks excited about cooking again. Restaurants should be able to offer a better work/life balance, higher compensation and a nurturing space where staff can learn and focus on their professional development. I mean, I just started this, so I might sound naïve, but I promise to try as hard as I can.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE:
Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP:
I grew up in Tehran, Iran. I was there until I was 19 years old when I moved to Ottawa to go to engineering school.
FAVOURITE COMFORT FOOD:
Crispy, nutty, saffrony tahdeeg (aka Persian crispy rice)
FAVOURITE INGREDIENT TO COOK WITH:
This changes from season to season, but I’m very much into cauliflower: raw, pickled, roasted or fried.
BEST CHILDHOOD FOOD MEMORY:
My grandfather filling a wheelbarrow full of charcoal as a makeshift BBQ to grill kebabs for the entire family. Every time I light up my charcoal BBQ, it brings me back to those days.
YOUR GO-TO RESTAURANT:
Temaki Sushi (Vancouver). Unassuming spot in my neighbourhood; always on point.
WHO IS YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT CULINARY INFLUENCE:
All the chefs I worked with have had a huge impact. My last chef Dave Gunawan [Farmer’s Apprentice], who has the utmost respect for farmers, really helped me appreciate the quality and seasonality of ingredients.
WHAT DO YOU DRINK AT HOME:
Lots of coffee and tea, sour beers are pretty pop-ular in our home, especially on taco nights. And with more elaborate dinners, a light, easy-drink-ing red wine.
MUSIC YOU LISTEN TO WHILE COOKING:
I have different playlists for different moods. Sometimes mellow bands like Beach House, Andrew Bird or First Aid Kit; other times, I crank up modern Persian bands like Pallet, Marjan Farsad or King Raam.
(above) Persian Breakfast by Bardia Ilbeiggi, Delara. Get the recipe here.