Chef Andrea Carlson on What It’s Like to Win a Michelin Star

Chef Andrea Carlson and her Mount Pleasant restaurant, Burdock and Co, were awarded one of Vancouver’s first-ever Michelin stars just a few weeks ago. And despite being a recognized culinary rockstar in the local food scene, the chef says she hadn’t really considered a Michelin star a goal of hers, especially in the beginning of her career. “It’s not anything that ever crossed my mind—I guess because I didn’t come up in an environment where Michelin was part of the landscape,” says Carlson. “It was always something for someone else.” 

But that’s not what Michelin thought—in their official announcement, the globally respected awards program said Burdock and Co “stands out with its rustic appeal and Chef Andrea Carlson’s farm-to-table cooking.”

Chef Andrea Carlson. Photo by Janis Nicolay.
Chef Andrea Carlson. Photo by Janis Nicolay.

Surprising no one, Carlson isn’t resting on her laurels. “Now, the work begins,” says the chef with a laugh. Pre-star, reservations for 7 p.m. were most common, but Carlson says now they’re booked solid, and resos for 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. are also being gobbled up (sorry). “Restaurants can be a precarious business, so I hope that this gives us more longevity and sustainability,” she shares.

Carlson says that while the award has resulted in more business from international travelers, she’s actually seen the biggest uptick in locals—locals who have perhaps passed over Burdock in favour of spots that opened more recently. “We have been here for about 10 years, and sometimes if you’re not brand-new, people can’t see you,” she explains. “This is giving us the opportunity to show people what we do.” 

From Burdock and Co’s current menu: dry aged duck with squash and radicchios

Of the eight Vancouver restaurants who received stars, Burdock and Co was the only one with a kitchen helmed by a female chef. “In the landscape in terms of chefs in our city, it seems the recognition has always been geared in a certain direction,” says Carlson (Vanmag note: we’re calling this direction Old White Guy). She adds that she was very excited that Masayoshi Baba earned a star (“he was at the forefront of my mind—he does such an amazing job and he is so incredibly talented”) and that iDen & QuanJuDe Beijing Duck House was recognized. 

A few other of chef Carlson’s favourite Michelin-lauded restaurants: Oca Pastificio and Anh and Chi, who both earned a Bib Gourmand, and Chef’s Choice, which she calls one of her “all-time favourite restaurants.” She remarked that she was thrilled that under-the-radar Barbara earned a star, and surprised that Hector Laguna at Botanist did not (still, Botanist is recognized on Michelin’s list of 60 recommended restaurants). 

From Burdock and Co's current menu: scallop, radish cake, shiso, sake butter
From Burdock and Co’s current menu: scallop, radish cake, shiso, sake butter

Carlson says her own Michelin star win was a complete surprise (though when I asked her if she had any idea beforehand, she said I was the fifth person to ask that question in the last 48 hours). Both Burdock and Co and Bar Gobo (also on the recommended list, check out their new pop-up series) received invites to the awards, so she didn’t read into the invite too deeply. “I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I think it’s always good to go with an open mind and not have super high expectations,” she says. 

From Burdock and Co's current menu: bramley apple tart with shoyu butterscotch
From Burdock and Co’s current menu: bramley apple tart with shoyu butterscotch

And while the star has had an impact on reservations, Carlson doesn’t want it to have an impact on the food. “Burdock has always been really value-driven business—we are focused on sustainability and supporting our local food system network, and creating food that is seasonally based and unique—that’s always been our focus, and that will continue to be our focus,” she says. Since the awards, Carlson says a few patrons have come in expecting something else—perhaps a more flashy, pretentious vibe—but that’s not Burdock’s game. “We’re still a humble, small room in Mount Pleasant,” says the chef. 

burdock and co interior
Inside Burdock and Co, chef Andrea Carlson’s Mount Pleasant restaurant.

Finally, Carlson was keen to uplift and recognize her staff—it takes a village to raise a restaurant, as the saying goes. “It’s been a tremendous boost in terms of morale, and we have been such a tight team,” says the chef, who describes the Burdock and Co crew as “a really diverse and progressive-minded group of people who complement each other so well.”

“Everyone on the team is so passionate and committed,” says the chef. With leadership like hers, that’s perhaps the smallest surprise of all.