As some of you may know, Alberta - and particularly Edmonton - had an incredible 2016/2017 in the restaurant realm. This was highlighted when EnRoute magazine released their long list of the top 30 new restaurants across Canada, with 7 coming from Alberta, 4 of which are in the Edmonton region.
Chartier was lucky enough to be included on this long list, an honour that we celebrated with a group hug and a few tears before getting back to lunch service (NOTE: This is a typical celebration in the hospitality industry......we're accustomed to helping others celebrate over good wine and great food and don't really take time to celebrate ourselves).
The other day a guest asked me what was happening in Edmonton, and wanted to get my thoughts on why it was such a stellar showing from our part of Canada. After digesting the question for a while, I think I have an answer - or at least part of it.
Edmonton restaurants are excelling because of the Edmonton diner.
To explain, I’m going to go back 2.5 years ago when we were in the construction phase of Chartier. On an impulse fuelled by exhaustion/stress/wine, Darren decided to Facebook message our food idol, Dave McMillan of Joe Beef/Liverpool House/Vin Papillon in Montreal to ask for advice. Never in a million years did we expect him to message us back with his phone number. HIS FOR REAL PHONE NUMBER. After a 20 minute conversation so laced with swear words it would make your truck driving best friend look uptight, we pulled two invaluable nuggets of wisdom from this super smart and fearless dude:
- Cook for your community. Whoever they are. Don’t cook to get on lists, don’t cook for writers. Cook for your community and they will never steer you wrong.
- The key to Dave & Fred’s success is that they have the best audience in the world to cook for. Montrealers are crazy, adventurous, and know good food. He said it was like getting to play baseball on the best baseball diamond in the world, so of course they’re going to win.
So…..why did Edmonton do so well in 2017?
The Edmonton diner of 2017 is not the Edmonton diner of 2007. They are more adventurous, and more experienced. They are pickier, they are smarter, and they are more conscious of what they put in their body. They expect more - and not more as in bigger portions - in fact, they better understand the concept of quality over quantity. They ask, and care about, where their food is coming from. They proudly support independent restaurants, small farmers, and artisan producers. They have less disposable income than they did in 2007, and they genuinely care more about where those dollars are allocated when they have the chance to go out.
We do better because they demand it. And because of that, we excel.
And, we will continue to excel the more that each individual independent restaurant earns the trust of their guests with every anniversary dinner, birthday dinner, and date night. The Edmonton diner of 2027 will be even more adventurous, and even more experienced - which will make the Edmonton restaurants of 2027 even more successful and creative. The restaurants of 2027 will be better than we are, and will laugh that we served poutine by the pound in 2017. Or that we served pancakes for dinner. Or that we tried to put rhubarb in everything.
So, though our 2017 group hug was smallish in size, we extend our arms out to our community - and the Edmonton diner - as we celebrate this nod with you. Thank you for giving us an incredible field to play baseball on, we’ll do everything we can to win (or at least play one hell of a game).