Bud Kanke – a guiding light of the Vancouver restaurant industry

With the recent sale of Joe Fortes to The Keg’s David Aisenstat, Bud Kanke officially retired from the Vancouver restaurant industry. If you’ve been living under a rock, it may be understandable if you’ve never heard of Kanke, but, to most Vancouver locals, he has been one of the guiding lights for the this industry. His 40-year career includes 11 restaurants (among numerous other non-food-related businesses), a lifetime achievement award, countless wine and service awards, and over $500 million in sales. How did someone with no previous restaurant or kitchen experience open and operate such iconic spots as The Cannery (1971), Mulvaney’s (1975), Joe Fortes (1985) and The Fish House in Stanley Park (1991)? Not to mention other well-known spots like 9th Avenue Grill, Viva! and Goldfish Pacific Kitchen. According to Kanke, it goes something like this: A fishmonger and a designer walk into a bar…


All kidding aside, the true story does run along similar lines. As a 33-year-old accountant who dreamed of being an architect, Kanke was approached by a guy in fish sales and a designer. Kanke never looked back. As for his dream of becoming an architect, “I satisfied that by opening 11 restaurants,” he states.


As to what made him decide to open the seafood restaurant The Cannery: “At the time [in 1970] Vancouver had no seafood restaurants at all. It was totally a no-brainer.”


Kanke credits his education in fine food and wine, and quality dining, to fellow restaurateur Umberto Menghi, with whom he travelled to Europe over the course of several summers in the early 70s. He also credits the burgeoning restaurant scenes in cities like Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles at the time for inspiring new culinary concepts. “In the late 1970s, we were the first in Vancouver to grill fish over mesquite,” recalls Kanke. “We first saw that in Los Angeles, actually. Most of my life, I’ve been inspired by my travels to use new ideas in preparation and presentation.”


Some of those travels were the initial inspiration for Mulvaney’s, which opened with a focus on New Orleans favourites like blackened fish, deep-fried hush puppies and roux-based sauces, as well as Viva!, which was a New York-inspired supper club. Kanke was the first to introduce the multi-tiered seafood platter to Vancouver, thanks to his trips to Paris, as well as oyster shucking contests. He was also one of the first to give California wines prominence in local restaurants, winning awards from American wine associations as well as the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. The latter has awarded Kanke awards for wine excellence for over a decade.


I asked Kanke who he admires in the next generation of chefs/restaurateurs. “David Hawksworth, definitely. Also, Rob Feenie and Rob Belcham [Campagnolo, Fat Dragon]. I also think Scott Jaeger [of The Pear Tree Restaurant in Burnaby] is undersung.”


When asked where he sees the local restaurant industry headed, Kanke replies: “I think we’re moving from fusion to confusion cooking. I see all of those Asian, South American, Middle Eastern flavours being used in a more global fashion. It’ll be more about the taste than about the label.”


“Customers are more knowledgeable than they used to be,” continues Kanke. “They watch Iron Chef, they watch Food Network. Cooking has become a spectator sport, an entertainment.”


As for what’s in store for Kanke himself, there are some charity projects that he and his wife Dottie are involved in. Beyond that, “No more restaurants,” he states firmly. “It’s time for the younger guys to experiment.”



Written By:

Anya Levykh was born on the shores of the Black Sea, in what was formerly the USSR. The cold, Communist winters were too much for her family, and, before she was four feet tall, they had left for warmer climes in the south of ...

Comments are closed.