Photos by Malcolm Parry

Ken's contribution to Vancouver is for having the passion and financial resources to set up Lumiere which step up the quality of food in the city to its current world class standing.

-- Malcolm Parry, VANCOUVER SUN

In 1995, Rob Feenie and partner Ken Wai opened Lumière, literally illuminating Canada’s fine dining scene. None other than the exacting Charlie Trotter asserted, “Lumière is quite possibly the finest restaurant in all of Canada.” - James Beard Foundation

Among Lumière’s many awards, Vancouver Magazine named it Restaurant of the Year for six years running, and named Feenie Chef of the Year.   In 2000, Lumière became Canada’s first freestanding restaurant to receive the prestigious Relais Gourmand designation from Relais & Châteaux.

Rob became consulting chef to New York's Plaza Athenee in 1998 and went on to win Iron Chef title in 2005. 

Their partnership ended in 2005 but Ken has been vindicated when Rob quit in 2007.  

We first tasted Rob's fine cooking at his Mom's townhouse in 1995 with a handful of good friends in preparation for Ken's entry into the food world with Lumière.  Malcolm Parry of the Vancouver Sun wrote about this occasion when  the city's best restaurant was seeded.



At the do, sometime British Properties chap Ray Signorello cracked a nine-litre Salmanazer of Cabernet Sauvignon Founder's Reserve '91 and poured plenty of the classic Bordeaux-blend Padrone '97 that honours his same-name late father and -- if you could get any -- would cost $200-plus per 750-ml bottle.

Michael Updegraff also pleased thirsty diners with vintages from Napa's Swanson Vineyards, which was founded by members of the family that invented and made a fortune from frozen TV dinners.

Undeterred, Feenie sent out seared scallops, sake-and-maple-marinated sablefish, roasted duck with duck confit, lamb loin with ratatouille, braised Black Angus short ribs and tenderloin, Quebec cheeses, vanilla pannacotta with poached figs, and a torrent of aromatic Napalia you could smell clear across Broadway in the White Spot parking lot.   - By Malcolm Parry    Vancouver Sun     9 February 2002

Rob Feenie, the chef, cookbook author and TV cooking-show star, has amicably ended his six-year business relationship with partner KEN WAI and is now sole owner of the Lumière restaurant. The duo signed off Friday, hours after Feenie fronted a $125-ticket Napa Valley dinner.

Iron Chef quits Lumière
Rob Feenie leaves two eateries citing 'breaches' by majority owner

VANCOUVER -- Canada's Iron Chef has been defeated in a battle for control over his own restaurants.

Rob Feenie has quit his job as executive chef of Vancouver's world-renowned Lumière fine-dining restaurant and the adjacent upscale bistro Feenie's, it was announced yesterday.

"Rob Feenie has terminated his relationship with Lumière and Feenie's due to breaches of his employment contract by the majority owner of the restaurants," his publicist said in a statement.

"These breaches severely diminished his responsibilities in both kitchens and in external marketing."

In an interview earlier this week, Mr. Feenie said he had lost creative control of his kitchen.

"They took all my rights away as an executive chef," he said, referring to his business partners David and Manjy Sidoo.

"The final decision about food for the last month and a half has gone through [them]. I have no say."

For the past three weeks, a private group of investors supported by Mr. Feenie has been trying to buy Lumière from Mr. Sidoo, an independent financial adviser and former CFL player who bought the restaurant two years ago, when it was on the verge of financial collapse.

The talks broke down on Wednesday.

Mr. Feenie, the host of a television series and author of several cookbooks, hasn't worked in his restaurant since early August, when Dale MacKay was hired as the new chef de cuisine.

Mr. MacKay, the former sous chef at Gordon Ramsay's restaurants in New York and Tokyo, replaced Marc-André Choquette, who departed last spring.

Rumours began flying last month when a full-page ad was published in the new edition of Vancouver Magazine's eating and drinking guide that introduced Mr. MacKay as the new "executive chef."

"That was an unfortunate error," said Mr. Sidoo, who disputes Mr. Feenie's version of the events.

"Rob was always the executive chef. Marc-André often acted independently of Rob, and Dale was hired on the same premise.

"Rob will be missed," he added.

"Having said that, I am confident Lumière will continue to be one of the best restaurants in the city. With the staff and quality of food and the chefs that we have, we can continue to give the same experience to the clientele that they've had in the past."

Mr. Feenie, one of Canada's most famous chefs, opened Lumière in 1995 with Ken Wai, an investment partner he later bought out.

The restaurant, known for 12-course tasting menus and Asian-inspired French cuisine, quickly rose to the top of the culinary scene.

In 2005, when Mr. Feenie competed on the Food Network TV series Iron Chef America, he beat Masahuru Morimoto and became the first Canadian challenger to win the epic food fight.   - 2007 November 3   Special to GLOBE & MAIL by Alexandra Gill


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