Interview: chef Robert Belcham (Refuel + Campagnolo)

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Chef Vancouver

From his childhood in Edmonton, Robert Belcham remembers his grandfather, a farmer, would cure pork to help sustain the family during frigid winters. Early experiences like those clearly made an impression. He trained as a chef in Victoria and cooked in-town before decamping for Yountville, where he worked as the butcher for The French Laundry. From there, he moved to Vancouver and took a chef post at C before taking the entrepreneurial route with Fuel in 2007. The recession wasn’t especially friendly to such a high-end concept, so Belcham scaled back and opened Refuel in 2009 with restaurateurs Tom Doughty and Tim Pittman, which has been a hit thanks to a focus on local ingredients and inspired takes on comfort food classics like hamburgers and fried chicken. Belcham is also a partner in Campagnolo, which specializes in regional Italian cuisine inspired by Piedmont and Emiglia-Romagna, and Campagnolo Roma, which showcases food from Italy’s Capital. We met at Refuel on June 3, where Belcham answered a series of fun questions for Food GPS.

If you could only cook with one more animal, what would it be and how come?

Pig. Pork’s an obvious one because it’s so diverse in the amount of things you can do with it. You can utilize every last ounce of a pig, cured, and you can utilize it again fresh. You get the most bang for your buck with pig for sure.

What do you like to drink, and where do you like to drink, when you’re not working?

I would say it’s Coca-Cola. I don’t have a lot of time to drink. I drink more Coca-Cola than probably anything. Mexican Coke is my favorite, actually. I love a beautiful cold glass of beer in my back yard when I’m barbecuing, or at one of my bars when I’m hanging out with friends. I have a young family, so I don’t have a lot of time to hang out at bars anymore. It’s good and bad. I don’t wake up with a hangover nearly as much as I used to.

Do you have any favorite outdoor activities?

Playing baseball with my son is one of the coolest things in the world. He’s eight. It’s his first year of baseball, and trying to teach him how to hit is a riot.

Did you play baseball growing up?

No, I played football in high school, and basketball. My son Eli, he wanted to try baseball, so, okay, let’s give it a try. So we got him a glove and we throw around the ball. It’s awesome.

What was the longest you’ve ever waited for a meal, and was it worth the wait?

Vikram’s. Vij’s is probably the longest I’ve ever waited for a meal. It was probably two hours, and it was worth the wait. Vij’s is really good.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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