Lauren Mote and Jonathan Chovancek are a much-loved power couple in Vancouver’s culinary scene, and were recently featured in BC Business magazine for their entrepreneurial savvy.
Both exceptionally accomplished in their own right – Mote, an award-winning bartender, sommelier, international spirits diplomat, and bar manager at UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar, and Chovancek, a celebrated chef, avowed champion of the Slow Food movement, and executive chef at Café Medina – the two are co-proprietors of Bittered Sling, with a line of bitters (Bittered Sling Extracts) and a series of events (Bittered Sling Bistro).
Lauren Mote (left) and Danielle Tatarin slinging cocktails at Cibo's bar. (Image: Issha Marie)
“Bittered Sling Bistro was launched in 2011,” says Mote, of the collaborative pop-up events (that had been on a brief hiatus until this January) she moderates that blend spirits (mixed by herself and special guest) with sumptuous, seasonal cuisine (prepared by Chovancek and host chef), as the visiting bartender “guides participants through an informative spirit tasting session and creates cocktails to accompany each dish.”
I was a lucky guest at Mote and Chovancek’s most recent collaborative dinner during Dine Out Vancouver at Cibo Trattoria (sister venue to adjacent UVA), where the theme, Mexican Hat Dance, inspired a lineup of incredible tequila cocktails paired with three courses of absolutely delicious food.
With The Keefer Bar’s beverage director and general manager Danielle Tatarin mixing cocktails with Mote, Cibo’s executive chef Faizal Kassam preparing food with Chovancek, and Cibo’s general manager and wine director Robert Stelmachuk graciously presiding over the room, it was an epic night of laughter, learning, attentive service and utter deliciousness.
Both Jonathan Chovancek (left) and Faizal Kassam are proponents of local, ethical, sustainable food. (Image: Issha Marie)
I’m a huge fan of whatever Mote and Chovancek are doing – cocktails and live Jazz on a Saturday night at UVA, and Sunday breakfast at Café Medina are two of life’s greatest pleasures – but I wanted to know even more about this dynamic Bittered Sling duo, who share many of my own values in supporting local, eating in season, and patronizing ethical and sustainable purveyors, and they agreed to a little Q & A.
I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know them better too, and encourage you to visit them at UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar, Café Medina, or wherever they put spirits to glass and food to plate!
Q & A
What’s your in-a-nutshell philosophy on food and drink?
Lauren: Food is, and always will be, a catalyst for bringing people together — whether it’s for a social occasion or just a conversation. We’re advocates for deliciousness, which is a very tangible thing but also draws on memories and experiences. When I think about our relationship with food, I start daydreaming about Osoyoos cherry season in January, intercity gardens that produce veggies with a story, the weathered hands of a farmer delivering the perfect carrots, fishing for spot prawns that you'll eat later that afternoon, fresh scallops sold right off the boat — the list is endless. The story behind the food is what makes it so memorable.
Jonathan: My philosophy is that it needs to be delicious, preferably in season and sourced from somewhere with high ethical and environmental standards. Food is about sharing and creating memories. Quite often a dinner is less about what you are eating and more about whom you are eating with.
What’s the most exciting part of what you do?
Lauren: Sharing with others! Not only do we feed off one another’s energy, but both Jonathan and I are keen to develop apprentices and up-and-comers in the industry. We’re always happy to offer connections, advice, to be an ear or a teacher, and to help to make dreams come true. We love helping others grow, and we never lose sight of our own professional and personal goals, too.
Jonathan: Lauren is the most exhilarating and inspiring hospitality professional I have ever worked with. Events with her are electric, and magic happens when I get to cook dishes to complement her beverage programs.
Bittered Sling Bistro flourishes on collaboration, can you speak to that and the culinary community in Vancouver?
Lauren: Collaboration is what keeps this city's vibrant culinary scene evolving. There are so many chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, and professionals in this industry who work so hard to create great culinary experiences. Bittered Sling Bistro aims to offer a glimpse into the richness of this community in an accessible, friendly and educational way. I think we achieve this each time, and it's always different depending on the characters involved, the spirits and the stories.
Jonathan: Vancouver is a very small but mighty town, and it's an honour to collaborate with bartenders and chefs in this city. Bittered Sling Bistro has introduced me to such a wide range of bartending talent.
What’s next for Bittered Sling Bistro?
Lauren: This isn’t a one-time thing for us. Bittered Sling Bistro started in 2011 as an educational program that brought spirit categories and bartenders to the forefront and gave them a platform for creativity. Only time will tell what lies ahead for us but it was such a thrill to bring it back again, and with a sellout crowd!
Jonathan: Hopefully more pop-up events to come in 2015!