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This Port Moody woman is an emissary for German cuisine. Now she's taking over an iconic New West restaurant

Amelie Janzen has been taking her MunChi traditional German foods to farmers markets around Metro Vancouver since last June.
Amelie Janzen shows off one of her signature authentic German soft pretzels.

It’s a big leap from baking pretzels in a commissary to running an entire restaurant.

But Port Moody’s Amelie Janzen says, “Either I do it now or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

Janzen, who’s been making and selling her traditional German fare like giant soft pretzels, flammkuchen, hearty dumpling soups and salads like Bavarian potato salad, gorkensalat (cucumber salad) and fleischsalat (meat salad), at farmers markets from Tsawwassen to Chilliwack since last June, is taking over management of the Old Bavaria Haus restaurant in New Westminster.

She’s partnered with renowned Vancouver chef Don Guthro to elevate her MunChi virtual kitchen, that’s really just a station at the Spring Street Common Kitchen, to a full-on restaurant experience.

Guthro has been training young cooks and providing catering at his D.I.C.E.D. culinary centre since 2010. Last year he received a lifetime achievement award at the Vancouver Magazine restaurant awards.

Janzen said it’s a combination she thinks will take German cuisine in Metro Vancouver to the next level.

Janzen said she never envisioned becoming an emissary for hearty German dishes when she first came to Canada with her future husband, a former pro soccer player whose athletic skills didn’t extend to riding his bike. He crashed into her on a path in her small village near Munich, a spark alighted, they went for a beer and when his playing career ended, she accompanied him back to Canada.

That was nine years ago.

Since then Janzen did odd jobs like packing seeds, carpentry, and working in restaurants. At home, she baked, the smells from home wafting through her kitchen.

“I missed the breads and buns and pretzels,” she said.

The friends who were often the beneficiaries of Janzen’s baking encouraged her to do more.

Janzen said she didn’t think there would be a demand for her confections, but her Osterlamm and custom cakes were so popular she called her mother back in Germany to see if she could come help care for her young daughter so she could devote more time to baking. That was months ago, and her mother is still here.

Janzen said the growth of her business has come from a lot of trial and error. It took her three months to perfect her giant, soft pretzels. The recipes for some of her other offerings had to be scaled up.

Janzen said it was tiring and all-consuming, but the feedback she got from customers at the farmers markets drove her forward.

“They said, ‘you just brought me back to my Oma.’”

Janzen said she makes everything from scratch, each twist of a pretzel fuelled by her own passion for German cooking. She said the market in Metro Vancouver for its hearty, robust flavours is still underserved.

“It’s a niche.”

Janzen said at Old Bavaria Haus, she plans to create a little corner of Germany, including the addition of a little deli where customers will be able to get her baked goods like the pretzels and brotchen, as well as sauces, dips, and dumplings. She also wants to transform the restaurant’s patio space into an authentic beer garden where events like Oktoberfest can be celebrated.

Janzen said she’ll spend the next few months freshening the interior of the restaurant, that’s been a staple on Sixth Street since 1967, to make it more reflective of contemporary Germany.

“It needs quite a bit of work, TLC,” Janzen said, adding she’s hoping to have all the changes in place for a special preview brunch on Easter Sunday in advance of the restaurant’s anticipated full unveiling in May.

“I’m really excited to be sharing my food from there.”

Janzen will be documenting her journey to full-time restaurateur on her Instagram account.