Not many Vancouver chefs can say they have cooked with culinary celebrities Vikram Vij, Ned Bell, and David Hawksworth. The Little Locavore, also known as Liam Lewis, has managed to work with all three before his 14th birthday.
Lewis is something of a local protégé. He started experimenting with food at age eight, when his parents limited his television viewing to documentary-style programs. Captivated by cooking shows—his favourite is Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown—Lewis requested that his parents purchase unique ingredients for him to test in the kitchen. “Most of all I like to eat, so that’s the biggest reason I like to cook,” Lewis says. “It’s also creative: there is nothing you can’t do with food.”
In the six years since he started cooking, Lewis has created a successful blog called The Little Locavore to chronicle his learnings. The name was inspired by Sarah Elton’s Locavore, a book about the movement towards buying local, which Lewis happened to be reading with his mom at the time. Since the blog was founded in 2013, The Little Locavore has grown a sizable following. Lewis has also appeared as a sous chef on Vikram Vij’s Cook Live, he hosts Vancouver culinary events, and he is active in the local food community.
While acting as a judge for the Vancouver Farmers’ Market Harvest Pie Competition in 2013, he met his fellow judge Ned Bell, then-executive chef of the Four Seasons Vancouver, who has since become his mentor. “Ned has taught me to appreciate the local food scene and value the ingredients that you have,” says Lewis. A passionate advocate of sustainable seafood and home-grown ingredients, Bell has collaborated with Lewis a number of times, most recently at the Get Local dinner at Whole Foods Cambie. Bell feels a strong responsibility to educate the next generation about what good food is, and thinks Lewis could be a beacon for his generation. “I don’t think I knew a tenth about food at the age Liam is now—he is so engaged and interested. I knew I wanted to be a chef when I was 14, but Liam is on a whole other level,” says Bell. “He thinks about flavour combinations, researches ingredients, and puts his heart and soul into what he has created.”
Lewis recently crafted a gorgeous meal when hosting his own Dinner Party YVR, which included a roasted beet salad with goat cheese mousse, butternut squash soup, marinated pork tenderloin with porcini mushrooms, and vanilla bean panna cotta. This was Lewis’s third time cooking at the annual charitable event, which supports the chefs’ charities of choice.
Lewis has attended teen cooking camps at UBC, as well as at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island, and has taken classes at The Dirty Apron with his mom, Joanne. “I remember Liam and I took a class at The Dirty Apron together and he was teaching me knife skills,” Joanne recalls. “He was one of only two kids in the class, and chef David [Robertson], who owns The Dirty Apron, thought it was pretty funny that Liam was schooling me.”
Lewis is a young man of many talents. His second passion is ice dancing, which has taken him and his family to Toronto, where he trains every morning from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Lewis has been figure skating for almost three years and has been doing ice dance competitively for one. “If he doesn’t win a gold medal in pair’s figure skating at the Olympics—he is that good—I see him doing amazingly well at anything he chooses,” says mentor Bell, adding: “His world will always involve food.” Lewis has been asked twice to compete on Top Chef Juniors, which could come down the pipeline when he feels he is ready. Until then, he’ll keep working. “I would definitely love to go to culinary school one day,” he muses. “I’ll just get through high school first.”
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