Les Faux Bourgeois’ “Dude Guru” Does It Again With Che Baba

Che Baba Cantina Vancouver outide

Vancouver's newest cantina meets yoga studio, Che Baba.

“Hey! Long time! How are you?” shouted Stephan Gagnon as his face lit up when I walked into Che Baba.

I looked around, and was met with a dimly lit room filled with locals cheerfully chatting over delicious looking continental fare such as beat salad with confit shallots, pistachio encrusted liver paté, mushroom risotto with truffle oil, gnocchi with sage & brown butter, braised lamb with celeriac purée, fish en papillote with quinoa, squid stew on crispy polenta, and other terrific looking plates. No wonder these people were cheerful—the menu looked and smelled amazing.

“What is this place Stephan?” I wondered as I took in the funky curves and patterns that seemed reminiscent of the psychedelic sixties. “And how have I not heard of it before?” I challenged my friend, who was grinning widely as he gave me a tour.

What Gagnon showed me was a new concept in Vancouver’s restaurant scene: one part local cantina and one part yoga studio. The eclectic, psychedelic aesthetic started to make sense, reminding me of hippy living rooms of the early seventies. Gagnon, who practices yoga himself, had created a spot for he and his friends to practice, relax, laugh and eat good food together.

Che Baba Cantina Vancouver interior

The designer and builder behind Les Faux Bourgeois and other popular Vancouver restaurants has created an ambiance somewhere between zen and psychedelic.

“In Spanish-speaking countries like Argentina, “che” is a slang nickname similar to “dude” or “bro” and “baba” is an Indian word for “father”, “wise man” or “guru” Stephan explained with his thick French Canadian accent and a glint in his eye. So essentially the restaurant is called “Dude Guru”! Hilarious.

“When we opened Les Faux we wanted to create a friendly, unpretentious bistro for the neighbourhood. But when it started getting so busy it became hard to get in, and sadly the locals from the neighbourhood came less and less often.” Enter Che Baba.

“I haven’t done any marketing or promotion at all.” Gagnon explained “I’m so busy doing my own thing, I don’t even know what’s going on in the industry these days, and I wanted to create a warm, friendly space for the neighbourhood.” He went on to explain how he managed to convince local chef Marta Pan (owner of Pan-o-Pan Foods) and Geoff Van Hussel to join him on this unique neighbourhood project.

The large illuminated sign on the side of the building still advertises the print shop which used to be house in the building, and Gagnon plans to use that space as a community-access art project to showcase various artists in the neighbourhood.

As with other past projects of Gagnon’s, which aside from Les Faux Bourgeois include Vancouver gems such as Jules, Gastropod, and Bistrot Bistro, he teamed up with his partner Scott Cohen. Nearly all the design concepts and construction was done by Gagnon himself in the workshop at the back of the building.

This isn’t really a restaurant review website, so I’ll spare you the long descriptions and my opinions of my first visit and just post a few photos below of our plates to give you an idea what to expect. But I predict good things for this spot and will be heading back soon—who knows, maybe even for a yoga class!

This gem of a restaurant only seats around 35 and they don’t take reservations so locals can access the space on a first come, first seated basis. So much for Gagnon’s idea of creating a restaurant for those frustrated by how busy Les Faux is. But I’m confident you’ll find it worth a little patience if you have to wait for a seat.

Che Baba is open seven days a week for brunch, lunch and dinner (just brunch and lunch on Sundays) and is located at 603 Kingsway (just down the street from Les Faux Bourgeois), Vancouver, BC; 604-558-1519 @ChebabaCantina (no reservations)


15 Responses to “Les Faux Bourgeois’ “Dude Guru” Does It Again With Che Baba”

  1. Posted on January 12th, 2012

    Love that they make restaurants to fit into the neighbourhood and grow around the regular patrons. Very Parisian where locals don’t endlessly hunt ‘hot’ restaurants and remain loyal to two or three that grow around them over a lifetime.

    Even living in Paris I missed Jules.

  2. Posted on January 15th, 2012

    Please note that the menu which Che Baba’s web site claims is “inspired by French and Mediterranean cuisine” was entirely composed by genius chef Marta Pan. Anyone who knows her food will recognize the ideas as hers. Marta created the menu for Che Baba as head chef, but was fired yesterday over the phone without discussion, warning or notice. After having set up the kitchen, hired and trained the staff, designed the menu and worked long and ceaseless hours, she has been discarded as soon as the restaurant was up, running and doing fabulously. So please be aware that if you eat here, or promote the restaurant, you are condoning this behaviour…

  3. Posted on January 17th, 2012

    Marta Pan makes delicious food and brought a lot of love to the kitchen. We are grateful for her collaboration working on the Che Baba vision for the cantina menu. She was our friend and we are sad it didn’t work out in the end. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

  4. Posted on January 17th, 2012

    That’s a very professional and respectful response from Che Baba to a rude, unsubstantiated accusation. What behavior am I condoning if I eat there? A restaurant owner exercising his right to make choices about who works in his kitchen? God forbid! My guess is that Deborah Harford is a chum of the fired chef who feels compelled to speak on her behalf and defend her for some reason. I live near Les Faux and have eaten there for years and have always been impressed at how fair and considerate Mr. Gagnon is to his employees. But at the end of the day, that what’s they are: employees. And I’m pretty sure Ms. Pan was aware of this when she was asked to collaborate with Van Hussel and Gagnon on creating the menu and brigade. I wonder how she feels about her friend suggesting the public take vengeance on the restaurant she helped create? Would she want it to fail? Of course not. Let’s all fill the place and encourage them to carry on the fine work that Pan helped start.

  5. Posted on January 17th, 2012

    I saw this review after having eaten in Che Baba around Christmas and it is spot on. Food and atmosphere are terrific and the wait staff is great. I can’t wait to go back for the Mushroom Risotto and warm apple raisin tart. My only complaint is that the owners wouldn’t commit to opening a branch of Che Baba in the States where I’m from.

  6. Posted on January 17th, 2012

    I’ve been dining out in Vancouver for 30 years. Every time I discover a fantastic new restaurant like Che Baba, I hurry back before the Vancouver foodies discover it and make me wait for my table. I suggest you get moving to Che Baba – it’s one of those absolutely slam-dunk winners of a restaurant. You will love it, you won’t want to leave when the meal is done, and you will want to take the whole staff home with you. Good luck Che Baba!

  7. Posted on January 18th, 2012

    I said I’d go back to check out the yoga at Che Baba and tonight I did. Andrea enjoyed the Slow Flow class and it was terrific. W really enjoyed it.

    The practice room is beautiful and the instructor Heidi—as well as the others in the class—made us both very comfortable. We’ll be going back quite often.

    And of course afterwards we went next door for risotto and red wine. How very clever of you Mr. Gagnon, Very clever indeed!

  8. Posted on January 25th, 2012

    I’ve yet to really get a fair shot at the food. Last week we went for the Family Yoga on Sunday morning and then next door for brunch. The place was packed and the staff hopping. The chef kindly made an impromptu goat grilled cheese for our daughter who is rather a picky eater. The eggs benedict on polenta was done to perfection (though I would have preferred slightly more or a bolder dressing on the salad).

    Have to say, though the place is technically not catering to kids, they have done a wonderful job weaving their inclusion into the formula in a way that will indeed make Che Baba a real neighbourhood gem.

    Going back this Sunday. Buying the Family Yoga pack. Saving the Mushroom Risotto for ‘date night’!

  9. Posted on February 3rd, 2012

    Dear Mark
    I am only sorry we never met!
    With out a doubt you walked into Che Baba the night I had off….!
    I am very glad you had a chance to taste the great fare offered that evening!
    I poured my heart and soul into this project!
    Every menu item you tasted that evening comes from my experiences in a chef..daughter…and mother!
    First…waiting…waiting…waiting….Then doing anything from staining woodwork….varnishing woodwork…and even assembling the chairs…stained and varnished 8 times….to get Che Baba ready for opening!
    It was supposed to be open as of the beginning of September.
    Needless to say November 26th is no where close…
    I was so excited!
    Putting everything into place in the kitchen!
    Shopping for all needed wares…
    Finding the staff that would make the “Che Baba” that….. Stephan kept on saying…”Will it work?”
    You must know Geoff Van Hassel who now is “Chef” was hired by me!
    He had worked with me as Kitchen help at Pan-O-Pan Fine Foods.
    Great kid I thought…A lot of potential!
    Needless to say…What a surprise!
    After pouring my heart and soul into this project I was simply tossed aside like a dirty rag!
    Stephan Gagnon obviously had an agenda!
    He is charming!
    He had me fooled!
    He is a great business man!
    He fooled me!
    No need for written contract he said…as he called me “Hermanita”(little sister) “Martita”… in spanish.
    I guess life is a lesson….
    All I can say is that I am glad to have a gift!
    I will continue to live life to it’s fullest and…..
    No one and especially not the likes of Stephan Gagnon or the backstabbing opportunist inexperienced sous chef Geoff Van Hassel, will keep me from doing what I do best!
    I have everything to learn!
    And I now know it is “good” to have a contract….!
    Really glad to know you liked the food.
    Marta Pan

  10. Posted on February 3rd, 2012

    Sorry Mark!
    Yes I was writing from Deborah’s computer…..
    She is my friend LISA!
    I thank GOD for GREAT friends like Deborah especially at this time!
    When people pretending to be my friends took blatant advantage of me and my good nature!!!!
    Did we ever meet honey?
    Wow Lisa!
    You sound like you need a little sugar in your bowl!
    Glad to know you live close to Les Faux Bourgeois…… But? Have you ever worked in the kitchen?
    Of course you did not…you are no employee are you?
    So Please? Do not make assumptions about what you know very… very… very little about!
    The way I was treated is unforgivable!!!!
    Marta Pan

  11. Posted on February 3rd, 2012

    I will just add to this – yes I am Marta’s friend, and have been for 21 years – so I was aware of every stage of her involvement with the development and opening of Che Baba, and was witness the enormous amount of apparent trust and goodwill this relationship was based on over the six months leading up to the opening. The firing out of the blue was completely incomprehensible to all of us who know Marta and had been visiting the restaurant during its design and building phase as well as its successful launch. Lisa, it’s too bad you think that treating employees this way is OK – as one local foodie said, “That’s no way to treat someone who has helped to grow your business.”

  12. Posted on March 22nd, 2012

    I have never been to Che Baba. Although I would like to, for the following reasons I never will. I was reading this review and I couldn’t help but laugh! The article could not be more misinformed. First, anyone who knows Scott Cohen’s work can only know that he is the aesthetic behind this project as well as Les Faux. Mr.Cohen is also responsible for the look of Nuba (downtown, 3rd) Gastropod, Nook and Pronto. Scott Cohen IS varnished plywood, 60’s roadside cool. Mr. Gagnon was a contractor and the projects he has overseen by himself i.e Outpost cafe certainly lack the expertise that is evident when Mr. Cohen is involved. It should also be mentioned that the concept of eatery/yoga is not his either but that of his rarely mentioned (ex) girlfriend who is co-owner along with her family and some silent partners. She had been working on the concept long before Mr.Gagnon came on the scene. Although he has previous experience with restaurants, this was her dream. Then there is the fact Marta Pan ( who I have never met) created the menu/kitchen and was fired shortly after opening, only goes to show for Mr. Gagnon’s total lack of respect for the people he works with. What makes Mr. Gagnon a good business man? He partners smartly, with other brilliant people then takes the credit for it. I wish them the best but I hope that Mr.Gagnon learns how to share better. It’s a small town DUDE!

  13. Posted on November 25th, 2012

    And now a nice coda to a disappointing episode, and great news for fans of Marta Pan’s amazing food.

    Pan-o-Pan, Marta’s original company, is now available again for cocktail parties, catered dinners and other custom events!

    You can contact Marta through the web site at or at [email protected].

    Book Pan-o-Pan today to add some festive spice to your holiday events!

  14. Posted on April 22nd, 2013

    I live very close, ate there last year, loved it, and have tried to go back a couple times but either closed or now doing reno’s. I was surprised how empty it was given how great the food was (better than Les Faux). Well I think I have an idea now. Shame too, but since reading the comments it’s hard to say if I’ll be going back, or to any tied to S. Gagnon. On the other hand, it’s a very one sided argument above, and Marta may have been impossible to work with. An entreprenurial chef who is difficult to work with is not unheard of. Neither is that of a person stealing ideas and passing them off as his own while firing the people that came up with them.

  15. Posted on December 13th, 2015

    how do I find Marta Pan? Every time I hire another caterer I wish it were her…does anyone know where to get her amazing dishes?

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