Jason Labahn slices, dices, yells and serves at Vancouver's Black+Blue restaurant, one of the most notable recent additions to the city's culinary scene. What advice does he have for other young professionals? Find out in today's YPDaily...
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Slice, dice, yell, serve, and repeat.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I met Emad Yacoub, Proprietor of The Glowbal Collection, in Las Vegas and he told me about his new restaurant he was opening in Vancouver called Black+Blue. I was immediately interested in working with him. He is a stand up guy and a high-energy leader; I like that in a boss. His new concept, Black+Blue – “the golden age of steak” – was in my field of expertise (having opened three trendsetting steakhouses in Las Vegas for the Light Group). Emad and the concept of Black+Blue, along with craving a change from Las Vegas after 10 years, all brought me to where I am today. As for my inspirations: My father William Labahn was a great home cook and a great restaurant gourmand. Our door was always open to everyone in the neighbourhood at suppertime. He made me feel like food was life and creating food was an essential part of living and loving life and he always made me feel that preparing amazing food was never out of my reach. He would say, “If you can read, you can cook.” From him I learned dishes from around the world, from making his famous enchiladas to grilling steak, frying tempura and boiling lobsters that he would bring back from Boston to Florida when he was on business. He took me traveling and taught me how to order food and behave in restaurants. All over America my father knew certain chefs, bartenders and hosts. They would all greet him by name, it was amazing.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
There’s nothing like the energy of a busy, full restaurant. It’s invigorating. Everyone is moving in rhythm, everyone’s energy is focused together. My team at Black+Blue makes the intensity and drive happen everyday; they are some of the best people in the business.
The most challenging part is when you find yourself in these movements and there’s a small hiccup, like the printer breaks down. At that point you realize how incredible your team is, because these moments can make or break your service and with a team like the one I have at Black+Blue, they are just little hiccups that we easily recover from.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well, right now all I can think about is this summer and the incredible patio opening on the third floor at Black+Blue. It’s like a whole other restaurant in the downtown core on a rooftop; an urban oasis with a charcoal grill and fire stone forno oven that looks out onto the patio. I’m new to Vancouver but I’m pretty sure this is like nothing anyone has ever seen here. I’m really excited and the food is going in a fun, approachable direction that I have yet to see in Vancouver.
What does success look like to you?
I consistently have to ask myself what success looks like at this point in time. And this is an ever-changing paradigm for me. Right now, success looks like living in this beautiful new city, working at this incredible new restaurant, going on amazing runs and hikes with my dogs. Finding balance between my work world and personal life, and enjoying everything in between.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
I’ve been incredibly blessed in my career. I had the opportunity to work with Chef Jose Andreas opening the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Resort in Vegas. I’ve taught at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and had students that now work in professional kitchens around the world. And now here I am, working at one of Vancouver’s best new restaurants and getting set to open the hottest summer spot in the city (the patio at Black+Blue).
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
I never sugar coat anything for young professionals. Chefs on TV are not the reality of this life; it takes years of dedication, blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices. We don’t do this for recognition or fame. We don’t do this for the money. We do this because of the people, the passion and the amazing life that this job can bring.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Being new to Vancouver personally, I am not connected to any. However, The Glowbal Collection (which Black+Blue is a part of) sponsors many charitable events throughout the year, including partnering with Union Gospel Mission to organize two big food events for residents of the downtown eastside. All of the Glowbal chefs and management come together to provide a nice meal to those who are less fortunate.
What is Notable to you?
After being in Las Vegas for the last 10 years and the Cayman Islands before that, I would have to say that I find BC’s mountains completely breathtaking. I’m that dorky guy taking photos of trees while my girlfriend smiles and shakes her head (she’s born and raised here). After 10 years of hiking the dry dessert mountains, the lush, wet, cool forests of BC are a welcome and inspiring change.
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What can I say...? I love Angry Birds.