By Omar Mosleh, La Nouvelle Beaumont News
Friday, March 6, 2015
Posted on the Beaumont News
Just in time for Francophone week, a local couple is looking to bring a little more French into Beaumont.
Darren and Sylvia Cheverie have launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to try and raise $95,000 to cover their down payment to open Chartier, which they describe as a rustic, French-Canadian restaurant.
The couple moved here about a year ago to raise their daughter Rowan. Sylvia has a background in marketing as well as the restaurant and bar scene while Darren has an extensive background in the industry and most recently was general manager of Cactus Club Café in Edmonton.
Sylvia says they decided on Beaumont to fulfil their long-time dream of opening a restaurant because it seemed like a good fit and also because she remembers it fondly from when she grew up here.
“We thought we could go into Edmonton, but we really wanted to live the community side of things as much as we could,” she said. “We wanted to become part of it.”
Being a part of the community is a major aspect of Chartier. They’re hoping to open in the new Maina’s plaza in Centre-Ville to be in the heart of the community and want to celebrate Beaumont’s history and culture with maps of the original town on the walls.
“We want to pay homage to what made Beaumont unique in the first place,” Sylvia said. “It’s that French small-town charm that really kind of sets it apart.”
In addition to bringing French food to Beaumont, they want to incorporate its history into the restaurant, quite literally.
“We’re going to try and use as much reclaimed wood from barns around the area, so that way there’s actual history in the building,” Darren said.
They also want to source foods from local farms to make them a part of the greater community as well.
“We live so close to so many amazing farms, so we’d be kind of crazy to not try and further support the community,” Sylvia said. “And that will make the food taste that much better.”
The name Chartier is derived from one of the founding residents of Beaumont and was actually considered as one of the names of the town, along with Beaumont and Bellevue.
One of the partners behind the Maina’s Centre-Ville project, Fadi Kehdy, has already spoken with the Cheveries about being one of the first tenants in the plaza.
“They’re looking to bring something we don’t have in Beaumont and it's something’s everybody has been talking about for a long time,” Kehdy said.
He added that he is a strong supporter of the restaurant idea and hopes to see it come to fruition.
“It would fit perfectly in that area,” he said. “It would be a good start for what the Town of Beaumont is looking to have in Centre-Ville ... We’ve never had anything close to what these guys want to do.”
The hope is that a French, family-themed restaurant in the heart of Centre-Ville will also help add to the vitality of the area and make it a destination, even for out of towners.
“We were talking about how nice it would be to be sitting out there and hearing the church bells while having a drink,” Darren said.
In fact, part of the inspiration for the restaurant was the Cheveries had a hard time finding a suitable place in Beaumont to go for a nice glass of wine or craft beer.
The couple says the menu would be distinctly French-Canadian, with a combination of Québecois and Acadian cuisine, with dishes such as tourtière and rabbit pie.
“There’s something homey about it, things like fresh-baked bread and hearty dishes,” Darren said.
They said they’d like to consider including more traditional French dishes such as foie gras. They’ve brought on a French baker from Edmonton to make sure their French bread is authentic.
But it’s about more than just French-Canadian food, but also celebrating French-Canadian culture. The plan to have a bi-lingual menu and servers.
“Probably one of the best ways to learn about a culture, and celebrate it, is through food,” Sylvia said. “And to not have that opportunity here in town to us is a missed opportunity.”
They also want to get more Beaumontonians into the French culture of dining, where people talk and drink and explore the food together over dishes such as charcuterie, a platter of cured meats, cheese and more.
Darren said as a restaurant manager, he notices technology has had a detrimental effect on the concept of dining out.
“It seems that with technology in this day and age, when people go out to dine together and everyone has individual plates, nobody’s talking, everybody’s looking at their phones,” he said. “And I find when you have a shared dish, it almost forces people to get back to the basics of what dining is all about, which is sharing an experience.”
And the idea of selling an experience rather than just food is key to the restaurant’s identity as well the Kickstarter campaign.
In exchange for an investment, the couple is offering incentives to funders. For example, depending on how much you contribute, you could get free coffee for life, a brunch for four people every month for a year, or a Christmas party for 40.
“We’re basically asking people to invest in their experience before we’re actually open,” Sylvia said.
Another reason for the Kickstarter is the couple wants ideas and thoughts from the community members who help fund it.
“We thought it was a great way to have the community involved,” Darren said. “It’s nice to ask people what they think of this part of the decor, or this dish, what are your thoughts. It’s going to be built for the community and by the community.”
The $95,000 would go toward establishing the lease, the interior design and construction of the space, as well as kitchen equipment.
Darren said in his experience with restaurants, you need to incorporate operating costs for the first six months because it’s not usually until after that when you start seeing profit.
“That’s why you see a lot of restaurants fail within the first six months to a year,” he said.
If the $95,000 is not reached within 60 days, all funds are returned. The restaurant’s eventual opening date will be determined by the success of the Kickstarter.
Darren, who is of French-Canadian background himself, said the couple is excited to strengthen the French-Canadian culture in Beaumont.
“There’s probably lot of people here concerned that Beaumont may lose its identity as a small French community,” he said. “And that’s why being a part of preserving that is so appealing to us.”
And of course, there is the question if this rustic restaurant will serve what is perhaps French Canada’s most favourite dish: the ubiquitous poutine.
“People think it kind of cheapens your brand a little bit, but poutine is one of the best things in the world,” Darren said. “So we’re definitely going to have poutine – hands down.”