us Stieffenhofer-Brandson remembers being served supermarket potatoes for dinner at a friend’s house when he was young. A stark, bland contrast to the fresh, homegrown varieties that his family’s cold room was filled with, they helped solidify within him an appreciation for what’s local and in-season.
“There was always a connection to having good food that we grew ourselves,” says the chef, who grew up in Winnipeg near his grandparents’ farm. “Everything is so much more flavoursome when it is grown and taken care of properly.”
It’s a principal that has guided him throughout his career. He started cooking in Winnipeg restaurants around the age of 13, eventually moving to Germany to complete several stages at Michelin-starred restaurants. In 2016, his interest in foraging took him to the world’s best restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, where two full weeks of his six-week internship were dedicated to foraging—from 6 a.m. until midnight.
Now the executive chef of celebrated Published in Vancouver, Stieffenhofer-Brandson has made foraging central to the restaurant’s food program. In a delicious twist of fate, many of the ingredients he picked and learned about in Copenhagen—including elderflower and variations of pine and spruce—also grow in the Lower Mainland.
On a recent gathering trip, he finds elderflower and beach coriander, and spots the beginnings of sea asparagus. The elderflower is abundant, and Stieffenhofer-Brandson plans to get enough of it to last the entire season. The floral ingredient finds its way into his wagyu carpaccio as a pickled garnish; as a cordial in rose kombucha; and as a beurre blanc accompanying a smoked steelhead trout.
“I’ll go out every weekend for ingredients like elderflower that are located nearby,” he says. “There is always something coming and going, you are constantly following the season. It’s a lot to stay on top of.”
The menu at Published also changes at an astonishing pace. To highlight these foraged ingredients, he has tweaked and adjusted his dishes at least 500 times since the restaurant opened in December 2019. A respect for ingredients was, and remains, core to his vision.
For home chefs, Stieffenhofer-Brandson recommends following what’s in season and getting to know local producers at farmers’ markets. Incorporating ingredients at their best, after all, makes a dish all the more special.
“You have the thing in its prime,” he says, “then the rest of the year, you wait for it.”