Le Crocodile Restaurant
By Nancy Baye

Parisian Elegance in Downtown Vancouver

Entering Vancouver’s famed Le Crocodile is like stepping back in time and place, to an elegant Parisian café of La Belle Epoque. Rich dark wood meets cheerful Provence yellow; intricate black and white tiling is dreamily covered with Persian runners. The fine-dining landmark has been the crème de la crème of French cuisine in Vancouver ever since it first opened in 1983. Le Crocodile has earned countless industry awards and shows no sign of stopping; the restaurant receives 4-Diamond status annually and continues to be lauded by high-brow culinary publications from at home and abroad.

Owner and Chef Michel Jacob opened Le Crocodile in honour of Au Crocodile restaurant in his hometown of Strasbourg in France’s north-eastern Alsace region. The young chef-in-training was inspired by the unforgettable food and impeccable service. Years later, after working in Europe, then Montreal, and finally Vancouver, Michel was able to pay homage to his Michelin-ranked inspiration with his own version. Chef Michel continues to come to the restaurant each night to cook in the kitchen for his guests.

We’re meeting grandchildren of some original patrons. It's very rewarding. - Taylor Coulthard, Maître d’
Owner and Chef Michel Jacob creates classic French cuisine at Le Crocodile.
Owner and Chef Michel Jacob creates classic French cuisine at Le Crocodile in downtown Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Le Crocodile

La Belle Famille

Maître d’ Taylor Coulthard is the frontman at the award-winning restaurant. He has been with Le Crocodile for a decade, first joining the team as a waiter in 2006. Just as he was about to switch careers, an opportunity presented itself. He laughs at the memory. “A chance to maître d' at Le Crocodile is a rare and extraordinary opportunity. I grabbed it.”

It's clear that Taylor was built for his job. He is unflappable and gracious as he moves between the needs of diners, whispers from staff, the waiting accountants, and a prospective waiter interview. “I used to be a chef and loved it, but my passion for people superseded that," he says. "I love interacting with people.”

Taylor isn’t the only proud and loyal long-term staffer. Head waiter Pierre has been with Le Crocodile since it opened in the 1980s. Sous chef Frank has worked alongside Chef Michel since 1999. Many of the wait staff have served for nearly a decade. Sommelier Kyle Gartlan-Close assists diners with the 10-page wine list. Rounding out the staff are a full time pastry chef, sous chef, and full kitchen retinue – all bases are set for excellence.

High standards and an exceptional level of customer care are de rigueur at Le Crocodile. The staff is small and tight knit. “We look out for each other,” says Taylor as he points out the team culture, evident in the light-hearted camaraderie between staff, and their quickness to jump in and help each other.

Luxurious lobster made to perfection at Le Crocodile.
Luxurious lobster made to perfection at Le Crocodile. Photo courtesy of Le Crocodile

Classic French Cuisine

Le Crocodile’s menu maintains classics such as Dover sole (de-boned at the table), lobster Thermidor, duck confit, and Provencal style lamb shank. Some items have been on the menu since day one, including the tomato gin soup and an Alsation onion tarte. “We offer consistency; we’re not going nouveau,” Taylor notes. “We have a loyal patron base and they don’t want us to change.” Le Crocodile celebrates classic French cuisine and the European culture behind it; why change a winning formula?

The Goût de France (Good France), the annual fete celebrating French culinary culture and excellence, invited only one B.C. restaurant to take part in their 2016 international French celebration of dining. Le Crocodile was proud to be a part of the tribute, which celebrates the values of eating well, sharing excellent food and respecting the planet.

And yet, despite all the critical praise and international awards, Le Crocodile is a uniquely Vancouver experience. The staff are incredibly proud to maintain long-standing relationships with patrons, sometimes even spanning generations. “Now we’re meeting grandchildren of some of our original patrons.” Taylor adds with a smile, “It’s very rewarding.”

Maitre D' Taylor Coulthard (left) and chef/owner Michel Jacob (right) accepting the award for Best French Restaurant at the Where To Dine Awards in 2016.
Maitre D' Taylor Coulthard (left) and chef/owner Michel Jacob (right) accepting the award for Best French Restaurant at the Where To Dine Awards in 2016. Photo courtesy of Le Crocodile
Le Crocodile's iconic downtown Vancouver dining room located at Burrard and Smithe.
Le Crocodile's iconic downtown Vancouver dining room located at Burrard and Smithe.
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