NEW RIVER CAFÉ CHEF FINDS HIS WAY HOME

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - EL­IZ­A­BETH CHORNEY-BOOTH

As with any pro­fes­sion, there are vary­ing ca­reer paths for bur­geon­ing chefs. Some young cooks grad­u­ate from culi­nary school and hap­pily plug away in the kitchen of a chain restau­rant with­out much out­side at­ten­tion. Oth­ers aim for the glory of be­com­ing the face of a world-renowned restau­rant.

Ross Bowles has cho­sen the sec­ond path. At just 24 years of age, Bowles was just named head chef (a ti­tle he prefers to the more tra­di­tional “ex­ec­u­tive chef ”) at River Cafe, one of Cal­gary’s most in­ter­na­tion­ally re­spected restau­rants. He takes over from the widely her­alded Matthias Fong, who left the restau­rant (and its sis­ter Deane House) in Septem­ber to pur­sue other yet-to-be-re­vealed projects. While hir­ing such a young head chef may seem like a risk for such a well-es­tab­lished restau­rant, pro­pri­etor Sal How­ell has al­ways had an eye for tal­ent and de­spite his age, Bowles al­ready has a long his­tory with River Cafe.

Bowles has worked in pro­fes­sional kitchens since he was 15 years old — while still in high school (and later in the culi­nary pro­gram at SAIT), he had to ne­go­ti­ate with his par­ents to be al­lowed to main­tain a full-time work sched­ule while keeping his grades up. He made it into the River Cafe kitchen while still a teenager, even­tu­ally be­com­ing Fong ’s sous chef. Bowles stayed at River Cafe for over four years, us­ing the restau­rant’s an­nual Jan­uary hia­tus to ex­pe­ri­ence Miche­lin-starred restau­rants in Europe and later to stage (that’s a term that is ba­si­cally akin to in­tern­ing) at top restau­rants like Restau­rant Gor­don Ram­say in Lon­don and, later, Amass in Copen­hagen.

“I didn’t even know what a Miche­lin star restau­rant looked like,” Bowles says. “I wanted to see what things would look like at the high­est level so I could learn how to achieve that back home.”

Even­tu­ally, Europe called Bowles for a longer stay and he moved to Lon­don, land­ing a job at the two-Miche­lin-starred Core by Clare Smyth. While that ex­pe­ri­ence was a dream for a young chef, af­ter two years Bowles was ready to come back to Canada. He started chat­ting with How­ell, who agreed to pro­mote him be­yond his pre­vi­ous sous chef po­si­tion.

Cus­tomers may notice a dif­fer­ence in Bowles’ new menu, but since he came of age un­der Fong’s tute­lage, he is stick­ing closely to River Cafe’s ex­ist­ing ded­i­ca­tion to sus­tain­abil­ity and use of lo­cal prod­ucts. In fact, it’s that very phi­los­o­phy that drew him back to the restau­rant.

“No mat­ter where I go, from Core by Clare Smyth, to Restau­rant Gor­don Ram­say, to Amass, the pro­duce is nothing like I’ve seen here at River Cafe,” Bowles says. “Lots of peo­ple do house-made ba­con or house-made but­ter. Other peo­ple get es­pelette pep­pers or shishito pep­pers. But I’ve never seen a restau­rant that is do­ing all of what we do at the same time. We do char­cu­terie in house. We’ll do three-year-aged pro­sciutto in house. For me, that’s ex­cit­ing.”

The very first dish Bowles put on the menu is a house-cured Man­gal­itsa pro­sciutto that he and Fong cured to­gether be­fore he moved to Lon­don — it came of age just as Bowles took over as head chef and he serves it with roasted beets, Tiger Blue cheese, and Fraser Val­ley hazel­nuts ($21). Other dishes on Bowles’ fall menu in­clude a rain­bow trout with lo­cal spaghetti squash, tomato, and es­pelette pep­pers ($40) and a wild boar loin with hon­ey­crisp ap­ple, braised cab­bage and lo­cal feta ($44). Guests are in­vited to dig fur­ther into his food via River Cafe’s very pop­u­lar chef ’s tasting menu ($105 per per­son).

River Cafe is open daily for lunch and din­ner and for week­end brunch on Satur­days and Sun­days. The restau­rant is lo­cated on Prince’s Is­land Park and can be reached at 403-261-7679 or river-cafe.com.

WINE AND FOOD FES­TI­VAL

It’s time again for the an­nual Rocky Moun­tain Wine and Food Fes­ti­val. The much-loved cel­e­bra­tion re­turns to the BMO Cen­tre at Stam­pede Park on Oct. 18 and 19. This year’s fes­ti­val will fea­ture over 700 sam­ples of food and drink, which at­ten­dees pur­chase with sam­pling tick­ets. More than 40 restau­rants are par­tic­i­pat­ing, in ad­di­tion to hun­dreds of wines and lo­cal se­lec­tions from Al­berta brew­eries, cideries and dis­til­leries. There’s plenty of en­ter­tain­ment on deck as well. Visit rock­y­moun­tain­wine.com.

PIE JUNKIE’S MENU

Fi­nally, Thanks­giv­ing is just around the corner and stressed­out cooks can sup­ple­ment the big din­ner with some­thing from Pie Junkie’s new fall menu, which was launched in con­junc­tion with the shop’s third Cal­gary lo­ca­tion. The new shop in West­man Vil­lage doesn’t of­fi­cially open un­til later in Oc­to­ber, but in ad­di­tion to its stores in Kens­ing­ton and Spruce Cliff, Pie Junkie will op­er­ate a popup in West­man Vil­lage so that cus­tomers can get their Thanks­giv­ing pies. Look for pump­kin, salted caramel ap­ple, and but­ter rum cream pies, as well as the new “turkey din­ner” pie for those who want their en­tire Thanks­giv­ing din­ner in one dish (sim­i­lar to that of­fered at Pie Cloud). Visit piejunkie.ca. Chorney-Booth can be reached at eliz­a­[email protected] Fol­low her on Twit­ter at @eliz­a­boothy or In­sta­gram at @eliz­a­booth.

No mat­ter where I go ... the pro­duce is nothing like I’ve seen here at River Cafe.

Ross Bowles, the new head chef at River Cafe in Prince’s Is­land Park, has had a long his­tory with the restau­rant. PHO­TOS: DAR­REN MAKOWICHUK

The River Cafe is ded­i­cated to sus­tain­abil­ity and use of lo­cal prod­ucts.

Al­berta Rain­bow Trout is part of the fall menu. Other of­fer­ings in­clude wild boar loin and the very pop­u­lar chef’s tasting menu.

The River Cafe is open daily for lunch and din­ner and week­end brunch.

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