Friends, family and fellow foodies mourn the loss of CBC Radio host Adrienne Pan
Pan had hosted CBC Edmonton's afternoon show Radio Active since 2018
Adrienne Pan, a journalist who had hosted CBC Edmonton's afternoon radio show Radio Active since 2018, died on Saturday morning after battling a serious illness for months. She was 43.
Pan grew up in Edmonton, graduating from Victoria School of the Arts in 1996.
Jules Van Soest became one of Pan's best friends after they met at age 14 in a musical theatre class at the Citadel Theatre. She said Pan was driven and charismatic as a youngster — someone people naturally gravitated toward.
Even in high school, where she anchored TV newscasts, Pan knew she wanted a career that would let her learn something new every day, her husband, Ben Norman, said.
After earning a bachelor of arts from McGill University in 2000, Pan worked for Edmonton's A-Channel and for Global News in Lethbridge and Winnipeg.
While at Global, in 2007, she won a national award for a television documentary she produced about Harry Lehotsky, an inner-city pastor and community activist who had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
In 2011, two years after launching CBC Manitoba's late-night newscast, Pan returned to her hometown, hosting CBC Edmonton's late-night TV newscast, then the 6 p.m. TV newscast.
In 2016, she started filling in for Mark Connolly on CBC Edmonton's morning radio show, Edmonton AM. On her second morning hosting the show, news of the Fort McMurray wildfire broke.
"It was a terrifying experience doing hours of unscripted radio, but it was one of the most important moments in journalism I have experienced in my career," Pan said in 2018, looking back on the experience.
'High standards for everything she did'
In the CBC Edmonton newsroom and radio studio, Pan was known for being a hard worker who prepared for every interview.
"My parents are immigrants and they taught me to have an extremely dedicated work ethic," she told the Winnipeg Free Press in 2007.
"She never shied away from the tough questions, or the tough work, and had high standards for everything she did," said Stephanie Coombs, CBC Edmonton's director of journalism and programming.
Coombs said Pan inspired her colleagues to reach for high standards, too.
"We will miss her, both as a colleague and a friend, immensely," she said.
Local food lover
Pan had many loves, including music, movies, fashion, road trips and cuddling up with her six-year-old dachshund, Otis, but Radio Active listeners know one of her biggest interests was exploring Edmonton's food scene.
"There are a lot of people in town who would say they owe a debt to Adrienne for her willingness and her passion for always wanting to feature restaurants that may be struggling and don't get the credit they deserve," said Phil Wilson, a food writer and radio columnist.
Pan often sought out food-related stories, spotlighting restaurants and profiling innovative chefs and competition winners. She loved recommending local dishes, like green onion cakes, citron-honey crullers at Rosewood Foods, pasta at Corso 32, French onion soup at Partake or dim sum at Golden Rice Bowl.
She volunteered as a judge at the Edmonton Heritage Festival and along with food columnists Twyla Campbell and Wilson, she worked on annual roundups of the city's best restaurants — each person compiling a list of their top picks separately, then revealing them to each other.
"It was always a highlight of the year for me as we mercilessly teased each other for at least one or two picks from each list," Wilson said.
One of the traits Wilson most admired about his friend was her honesty. Doreen Prei also appreciated the direct way Pan communicated with people.
Prei, the executive chef at Edmonton restaurant May and a Radio Active columnist, developed a friendship with Pan soon after she took the hosting chair on Radio Active. Though Prei stopped coming into the studio for columns, their friendship deepened during the pandemic.
While in hospital, Pan texted Prei about a burger she was dreaming about.
The burger was layered with cream cheese, cucumbers and sprouts, which Prei had not dressed because she did not want them to wilt.
"After I dropped off that burger, a little later on I got a text and she said to me that the burger was lacking acidity," Prei recalled.
"That's what I loved about her — she was super honest."
Norman said his wife loved discovering small restaurants and talking about them.
He said he will miss dinners with her the most.
"I've never enjoyed having a meal with anybody else as much as I did with her," he said.
Curiosity and compassion
A strong critical thinker with a big heart, Pan could both hold powerful people accountable and tell personal or emotional stories with sensitivity and care.
On or off the air, Van Soest said, Pan approached people with curiosity and openness. She could have a deep conversation with just about anyone, empowering them to share a story, even if it was only for five minutes.
"She believed in people so much," she said.
Norman said he'll never forget his wife's smile.
"I don't think there's a picture in the world without that smile of hers," he said.
In addition to her husband, Pan is survived by her parents, Maggie and Daniel Pan, her brother Jason and his wife Jen, her nieces Elena and Alyssa, and her dachshund, Otis.