Shop with a Chef: Hidekazu Tojo

Leaving the strict traditions of formal Japanese kitchens for the openminded nature of Vancouver diners in 1971, Hidekazu Tojo set out to make a name for himself as Canada’s fi rst sushi chef. Almost four decades on, his West Broadway restaurant, Tojo’s, is lauded for turning out some of the world’s best sushi—we have him to thank for California and B.C. rolls. Though originality and creativity may be his claims to fame, he insists the secret to good food is choosing the right ingredients. “I’m looking for the highest- quality seafood available,” he says. “My suppliers know I’m fussy, but I’ll pay more for the best they have. They pass that on to the fi shermen, who make sure they’re bleeding and storing the fi sh properly. That’s the most important part of getting quality seafood.” Tojo’s uses 30,000 pounds of tuna and 15,000 pounds of salmon each year; rather than have trucks roll up to the restaurant with crates of seafood, he sends his staff out to scour the city for the freshest products available. Live Dungeness crab, lobster, and spot prawns are painstakingly sorted through at Gar-Lock (252 E. Georgia St., 604-683-0148). Tojo picks male shellfi sh because they have more meat and muscle, and only prawns so healthy they’re practically jumping out of the tank. A call from Angel Seafoods (1345 Grant St., 604-254-2824) lets him know that local Albacore tuna has just arrived; at Seafood City (1689 Johnston St., 604-688-1818; he picks up halibut cheeks, insisting they should smell not fishy but more like cucumber or watermelon. He shops at Four Seasons Farms (1689 Johnston St., 604-688-2215) for organic fruits like the pineapple and avocado featured in his cucumberwrapped Northern Lights roll.