Former WildTale executive chef Francisco Higareda to lead new Latin American eatery opening this spring at 165 West 2nd Ave
VANCOUVER, B.C., February 7- A new south-of-the-border dining experience is coming to Olympic Village this spring as business partners John Crook and Erik Heck – owners of Vancouver’s wildly popular The Flying Pig and WildTale – launch Ophelia, an original new restaurant concept helmed by executive chef Francisco Higareda.
Named after Higareda’s mother, Ophelia will specialize in authentic Mexican cuisine prepared with a refined, elevated approach. The new venture is slated to take over the space currently occupied by WildTale’s Olympic Village location at 165 West 2nd Avenue and will be a completely unique dining destination for the urban neighbourhood.
Drawing inspiration from his childhood in Veracruz and his mother’s home cooking, Higareda’s menu will feature crowd-pleasing favourites like tacos and chilaquiles alongside traditional Latin American dishes such as pulpo en mole (octopus topped with rich mole sauce), bone marrow sopes (thick corn tortillas) and aguachile (shrimp marinated in fresh lime juice and chilli peppers). Ophelia will also offer a fully licensed bar serving handcrafted cocktails made with premium tequilas and mezcals, along with local and imported craft beers, and New- and Old-World wines.
“Given my strong connection to Mexican cuisine, we saw an opportunity to take advantage of my knowledge and passion and do something truly unique here in Olympic Village,” Higareda explains. “My mother inspired my love of cooking and it will be a true honour to return to my roots and pay homage to her and my country at Ophelia this spring.”
Higareda grew up preparing traditional recipes with his mother in their family kitchen before undergoing formal training at culinary schools in Mexico and Argentina. He later went on to hone his skills in Europe – working on the line at three-Michelin star Restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain and two-Michelin star restaurant, L’Atelier in Paris, France – before returning to Mexico to open two restaurants of his own. Seeking a new challenge and a change of scenery, the talented chef emigrated to Vancouver and began working with The Flying Pig and WildTale restaurant group in 2017.
“Since joining the WildTale family, Higareda has proven to be an incredible asset to our team, and someone who consistently pushes the culinary envelope,” says Crook. “It has always been our mission to nurture our people’s passions and goals and we are proud to have him take leadership of this new restaurant concept.”
Higareda recently had a chance to showcase his flair for fine Mexican cuisine when he hosted chef Guillermo Gonzáles Beristáin – head of Mexico’s Grupo Pangea restaurant group – for a World Chef Exchange Dinner at WildTale on January 30 as part of the 2020 Dine Out Vancouver Festival.
Further details about Ophelia will be released in the coming weeks.