It takes a lot to capture the heart of a country’s cuisine while outside of that country, but it’s something that Chef Javier Blanc of Paella Guys has down to a science.
By replicating some of Spain’s most traditional paella recipes right here in Vancouver, Chef Blanc has nailed down the essence of what makes paella such a popular dish – and become a paella pioneer in the process.
Bringing paella to Canada
In September 2017, Chef Blanc arrived in Vancouver with big culinary dreams as a restauranteur, bringing the authentic paella experience with him. In Madrid, he was well familiar with the culture of cooking with friends and sharing tapas around the table. And just a few short months after moving to Canada, Paella Guys was born.
“My motivation stems from my family and the desire to share the richness of Spanish cuisine beyond Spain’s borders,” Chef Blanc shares in an interview with Curiocity.
Flash forward to May of 2018, and that’s exactly what Chef Blanc would begin to do. Catering to events big and small across Metro Vancouver, Paella Guys offers fresh-made paella for pick-up, delivery, and live culinary experiences. And like their team, their menu is ever-growing.
Chef Blanc’s most popular dishes
If you’re looking for a go-to paella for your next party or event, the ‘Paella Mixta’ is a no-brainer, consisting of both meat and seafood. The dish is made with chicken, shrimp, jumbo prawns, red peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomato, garlic, and saffron – and if you just started drooling a little bit, we totally get it.
This summer alone, Paella Guys has catered around 100 events, and the ‘Paella Mixta’ has undoubtedly been one of the most frequently ordered.
Customers can also take home a piece of their Spanish heritage in the form of tapas like ‘Tortilla de Patatas’ and imported sardinillas (sardines), chorizo ibérico (pork sausage), and marinated olives, among other tasty treats.
It’s all in the rice
Paella might be known for its vibrant ingredients and flavours, but Chef Blanc reveals that it’s the rice that’s the star of the show.
“Every good paella dish starts with the rice – and saffron,” he explains. “At Paella Guys, we import the rice from Spain, where it’s been grown in Valencia since the 8th century.”
Every other ingredient added to the dish only enhances its flavour, according to Chef Blanc.
It’s for this reason that Chef Blanc names the ‘Paella Vegetariana’ as his most challenging paella dish to make.
“For this dish, we only use basic ingredients and natural flavours. It’s difficult to get those rich flavours out of it without meat or seafood.” Yet he does so nonetheless – allowing vegetarians to enjoy the Spanish staple as well.
As for his personal favourite dish, Chef Blanc says the classic ‘Paella Valenciana’ has his heart. Its emphasis on basic ingredients and traditional cooking methods make it a standout on the menu, and it just took home the title of second-best paella in the world.
Second-best paella in the world
Recently, Chef Blanc represented Canada alongside Chef Elea Blasco in the acclaimed “Concurs Internacional de Paella Valenciana de Sueca”, the longest-running paella competition on record. The competition brings together the most talented paella chefs from across the globe to celebrate the tradition known as “La Fiesta del Arroz” – AKA, “the rice feast.”
Now in its 62nd year, 45 participants gathered in Valencia earlier this month to compete for the coveted title of the world’s ‘best paella.’
Chef Blanc and Blasco prepared meticulously for the competition, drawing on their years of experience and passion for honouring authentic recipes and cooking methods.
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With first place awarded to a local Valencian restaurant, Chef Blanc expresses how honoured he was to participate in the competition.
“We knew it would be challenging to win the main award—’Best Paella In the World’—while representing another country. We were both shocked and elated when we succeeded in earning second place.”
So if you’re ready to take a trip to Spain on a spoonful of paella, you can truly do no better than one of Chef Blanc’s signature paella dishes.
Now that Chef Blanc and Blasco are back home with their team, there are big plans in store for Paella Guys in the coming months. If you’re hungry for authentic Spanish cuisine, stay tuned for more info as it comes, including where you can find their delicious paella around Vancouver.
Where: 106-3191 Thunderbird Crescent, Burnaby