Christian Kuehnel fell in love with Vancouver when he was 14. “I was watching a movie with my dad,” the executive chef of Gastown’s Bauhaus restaurant recalls. “It was set in Seattle, but he told me it was actually a place called Vancouver—and I wanted to move there.”
He finally made it to his dream city in the spring of 2019. But not before his cooking career was established, sharpening his chops at acclaimed restaurants, including Spices by Tim Raue on Germany’s Sylt Island, and London’s Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. And it’s that firsthand experience of the possibilities of modern European cooking that he’s excited to bring to his new home.
“I really do want to use my heritage—what my mother and grandmother cooked for me as a kid growing up,” he says. “But I also want to show where I’ve been. I’ve cooked on a German island but in an Asian restaurant, and that makes so much sense to bring elements of that here to Vancouver.”
He may have all sorts of culinary twists in his future menu plans, but first he’s working hard to explore what the Pacific Northwest has to offer, making it a priority to visit small producers and start building relationships with the best local suppliers.
“My ingredients should come from B.C., wherever possible,” he insists. “But I love Korean and Japanese food, and I don’t have a problem using spices from anywhere in the world.”
If Asian cuisine seems an unlikely bedfellow to traditional German food, Kuehnel is quick to point out that spaetzle is essentially a noodle, and sauerkraut and kimchi are, at the very least, culinary cousins. “We are really not that far from each other,” he notes, with a smile.
And so, on his summer menu (launched in June), gravlax, radishes, and horseradish gel garnish a cucumber soup ramped up with hits of jalapeño and Tabasco; and a duck confit is served with daikon. His German heritage is represented by veal tongue—a dish he says is all about his grandmother, “and is incredibly important to me.”
The summer menu also heralded a new format for the restaurant, with diners able to mix and match their choices to create anything from a three- to six-course meal. In a nod to a Bauhaus customer favourite, a full wiener schnitzel can be substituted as a main course—or added on for sharing at the table.
“We want to make it comfortable for the diners,” Kuehnel says. “And I want to show them how far German cookery has come—and how far it can go.”
Discover more menus in our food and drink section.