If you've turned on the TV and watched shows like Top Chef or if you've travelled through Calgary in recent years, you've heard about Connie and John - and/or their restaurants CHARCUT Roast House, charbar with The Rooftop Bar at Simmons and Alley Burger, which are among the most popular (and most importantly, the best) in this beautiful Albertan city. John and Connie are about to open CHIX Eggshop, a "fast fine diner" located in Alt Hotel Calgary East Village. We asked them a few questions.
CHARCUT Roast House has been open for almost 10 years now. How has the culinary scene in Calgary evolved since then?
We noticed a movement in Calgary’s restaurant industry when we came back from San Francisco twelve years ago. People were breathing new life into the industry, there was a real desire to do things differently. We wanted to be a part of this cultural shift and energized culinary renewal.
Before opening CHARCUT Roast House, we toured our backyard to learn more about our terroir "40 farms in 40 days". We visited over 40 farms and we were amazed by the people we met, and the abundance of products grown with love here in Alberta. One of the things that had a great impact on us was meeting a farmer who was growing artichokes. It was amazing to us that someone was producing such beautiful artichokes in our province. We knew we had to spotlight what we saw.
What makes Calgary unique?
In Calgary’s restaurant scene, there’s a camaraderie between restaurateurs and chefs that is rarely found elsewhere. A little anecdote - before opening CHARCUT Roast House, we invited all the restaurateurs and chefs along with their families in Calgary to a potluck in Connie's parents' backyard. We asked them all to bring a dish that represented Calgary to them. We expected to have a dozen guests maximum ... and we were so surprised that more than 70 chefs and their families showed up! Local restaurateurs are committed to their establishment’s success, but they’re also aware success comes from all the city’s restaurants and businesses flourishing. It’s a part of CHARCUT Roast House culture to support and promote our colleagues and their businesses at every opportunity we have.
You opened charbar in the East Village, which is now booming, when there was almost nothing in the neighbourhood. What is it you saw in the neighbourhood?
First, we opened charbar in a building we love - the Simmons building. Built in 1912, it is one of the only heritage buildings in the city and it is absolutely magnificent. It’s also ideally located: beside the Bow River and only a few minutes from downtown Calgary. Of course, it took a little vision, but we really liked the business-sharing concept under one roof proposed by our friends from Phil & Sebastian and we knew that the neighbourhood was about to develop quickly.
Tell us about CHIX Eggshop, the new breakfast restaurant you’re opening soon in Alt Hotel Calgary East Village.
CHIX Eggshop is a “Fast-Fine Diner” which is a quirky, nostalgic, counter service–only breakfast and lunch spot with skillfully crafted and quickly served dishes alongside super hip craft beverages and cocktails that are sure to shake things up. Our menu is made up of choices from healthy dishes that keep you fit and active to indulgent choices that just make you happy and fill your belly. CHIX Eggshop’s head egg cracker will be none other than talented Executive Chef, Jessica Stone. Jessica is a bright, young leader, whose smile alone will warm the space along with her creative inspiration and appreciation for good wholesome food, skillfully crafted and quickly served where everyone is welcome. Jessica will begin her new roost behind the counter exemplifying the fun, flavours and vibes that is CHIX Eggshop.
Finally, apart from Alberta, since you live here, what do you think is the most exciting Canadian province in terms of gastronomy?
John: I would say Saskatchewan. There are some very exciting things happening there. The Grassroots Restaurant Group, among others, are doing a spectacular job of showcasing the Prairies. I predict that Saskatchewan will soon be all the buzz of every gourmet in the country. Connie: I know it's not supposed to be my answer, but I can’t help but mention Alberta. It’s my home, but it’s also home to so many amazing small businesses, artisan producers and restaurants that create a true taste of Alberta... I’m a proud born and bred Albertan and take every chance I can get to shout it from the Rocky Mountain tops “YAH-HOO”.