Botanist’s executive chef Hector Laguna sat down with writer Steve Newton from the Georgia Straight to chat about the best chef he knows, his mom, and some of his favourite restaurants in the city.
…As far as the food at Botanist goes—cuisine which just won it Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Hotel Restaurant and Best Pacific Northwest Dining at the 2021 Golden Plates—the dry-aged duck breast (with onion crêpe, wild mushrooms, nettles, and preserved cherry jus) is the most popular item on the dinner menu. But Laguna says that the lamb rack and lamb belly duo (with tomato fondue, puffed grains, and lamb consummé) is his personal favourite. “It’s a recipe that we grew up eating on a Sunday,” he says, “so it brings a lot of memories for me.” Apart from the food he cooks, Laguna says he enjoys being executive chef at Botanist because of the openness and freedom there, where he’s able to do what he likes to do. But the job is not without its challenges. “At the current moment it’s definitely staffing,” he reveals. “It’s hard, it’s hard. Of course it’s not just around this city, it’s around the country and around the world. But other than that I think the biggest challenge I’ve had is to make sure everybody is motivated, to make sure everybody comes to work with the attitude that they want to be here and they want to learn.” When he’s cooking at home for his wife and two kids, aged five and three, Laguna loves taco night, his favourite being tongue tacos. But he also likes to go out on the town and sample the competition. When asked if there any other local eateries he recommends, the chef raves about delicious meals he’s had at AnnaLena in Kitsilano and St. Lawrence in Gastown. And he wants to try the food at Published on Main very soon.