Victoria welcomes acclaimed Executive Chef Ken Nakano

December 3rd, 2020

Inn at Laurel Point is delighted to welcome acclaimed Executive Chef Ken Nakano to its renowned gastronomic team. During his 20-year culinary tenure, Chef Nakano has prioritized a farm-to-table approach, supporting local growers and producers wherever possible.

Prior to joining the team at Inn at Laurel Point, he led the kitchens of global hospitality leaders like Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver, Rosewood Hotel Georgia and Hotel Fairmont Empress.

In his new role, Chef Nakano will apply his philosophy of marrying local ingredients with Asian flavours, while utilizing the Pacific Northwest’s fresh assortment of seafood and the Inn’s robust hotel garden.

Chef Nakano

A passionate advocate for sustainability, Chef Nakano’s appointment builds on traditions and philosophies central to the award-winning Inn, set against an inspiring backdrop of Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour. Raised in a traditional Japanese household, Chef Nakano’s mother instilled in him a deep respect for honouring the seasons, nourishing the land and harvesting responsibly – teachings he has carried throughout his career. While this influence can be experienced throughout each of the culinary touch-points in the hotel, his philosophy is especially integral to Aura, where local and seasonal ingredients take center stage – encouraging guests to experience bold and worldly flavours through globally-inspired “small plates”.

“Joining the culinary team at Inn at Laurel Point was an easy decision for me – in addition to honouring local, my philosophy of infusing seasonal ingredients with Asian flavours is similar to the approach at Aura,” said Chef Nakano. “I feel extremely lucky to be working and living in Victoria, where there is so much fresh seafood, vegetables, meats and other organic, sustainably grown ingredients to play with. I’m excited to share our team’s creativity and passion with diners across the property.”

When he isn’t overseeing the restaurant’s kitchen, bringing a vibrant energy to the famed hotel, Chef Nakano can be found on his motorcycle, seeking out new farmers and producers or exploring Victoria’s culinary scene.

Q&A with Chef Nakano

1. Why Victoria?

I love our Capital city. It reminds me of Vancouver from my youth and I like the moderate climate and down to earth feeling of the neighborhoods. It’s a real community feeling that has everything I need without being in a bigger city.

2. Why Aura?

The Inn at Laurel Point is a beautiful property that has been recently renovated. The kitchen is fantastic and the team is fantastic too. It’s very exciting to be here and to have this beautiful restaurant with it’s a cool 70s-80s modern design and exciting small plates concept! Did I mention the location and the view... WOW

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3. What can we expect to see on your menu?

We have been doing some menu development since my arrival, the more popular features being the dashi braised beef rib with yuzu and togarashi, the Beef tallow roasted maitake mushroom with bonito and the kabocha risotto with ajitsuke tamago and pickled carrots to name a few. Small plates are the way, I love this concept. I like the izakaya feeling and the energy it brings to both the dining room and the kitchen.

IMG 5174 Courtesy of @keeemmm

4. What excites you the most or makes you more proud about your cooking?

The Inns new kitchen garden is a great source of inspiration for sure. It’s a huge space, there’s fruit trees, herbs, vegetables etc. We are busy planning for next spring with some specialty items that are unique, like yuzu, kiwi, and various other heritage and indigenous varieties of fruits and vegetables. It is very satisfying to cook with things you have grown, foraged or caught.

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5. What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

I really like our pacific seafood and really, anything in season, whether it be fish, meat, or vegetables, this is my favourite way to create menus and cook. My flavor profiles change as the seasons change.

6. How do you create team synergy and keep it going?

I am a professional and I expect my team to be so also. Along with our love of food, the passion and respect for our trade is our common denominator. I find the collaborative approach engages the team as we develop our food program and generate synergy. Ideas start to flow as we work together towards a common goal; this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work.

7. Do you have any big projects in the works?

We have just launched the curbside pickup program to offer Victoria a chance to enjoy our fantastic Christmas baking at home! Selling online: Panettone, Gingerbread cookies, Stollen and some cool Inn-made chocolate bars that Chef Kimberly is making… very cool! Quite interesting and unique for sure! Pickup date starts December 5th, check our website for details. We were also planning a couple of collaborations with a local brewery and a small restaurant but since the new restrictions, this will be on hold for now, please stay tuned.

Order Online - Home for the Holidays Curbside Pickup

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8. For those who haven't been to Aura, what do you recommend to try?

Definitely try the Dashi Braised Short Rib with yuzu and togarashi, another dish that I recommend is the Seafood Risotto, I think it is quite delicious with the flavours of ginger, garlic, sambal, dry shrimp and the shrimp paste, authentically tasty. The seafood is a combination of our Oceanwise local shrimp, clams and mussels.

9. Tell us in a few words why people should visit Aura?

It's a cool fresh small plates concept with bold flavours and high energy in a stunning room, it’s quite a unique restaurant - we are approachable, fun, casual, interactive and energized!

IMG 5166 Courtesy of @keeemmm

IMG 5163 Courtesy of @keeemmm

Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio

Address: 680 Montreal Street, Victoria
Instagram: @aurayyj
Dinner 5 - 9 pm daily
Weekends only
Breakfast 7 - 11am
Bruch 11:30am - 3:30pm
Happy Hour 3:30pm - 5pm
Dinner 5pm - 9pm


Amelia Acedo

Tasting Victoria Editor