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You know, I was just thinking, why isn't there more Ukrainian restaurants around here? In Alberta some 10 percent of residents have Ukrainian ancestry (including me), yet I don't really see the food represented much. By contrast, theres a much smaller Italian population (about 2 percent), yet you take a look in the phonebook and theres more Italian restaurants than every other type combined.

Not only that, but what little Ukrainian food I have had in Calgary has been garbage compared to what my grandmother made, or what I can make. So, anyone know any good Ukrainian restaurants in Calgary? I'm sure theres got to be at least 1...

And the final part to my post. I'm a professional cook, I've got a pretty high-powered résumé and also have quite a bit of experience with Ukrainian food, in addition to my French training (the chefs I apprenticed under came from Michelin starred restaurants in France and Switzerland). I am seriously considering opening up a restaurant, but am a little worried about the viability of such a business. Is there a market? I would like to think that simply making great food (the easy part) would lead to success, but I know that's not always the case. And seeing as eGulleters are pretty knowledgeable about food, would you eat fine dining level Ukrainian-inspired food? I'm very confident the food itself would be as high a level as any French restaurant, but theres a certain 'stigma' associated with 'ethnic' foods.

To the mods, if you want to move this post to a different folder feel free, however I thought that since the topic deals with regional cuisine it would be suited to this folder.

Edited by Mikeb19 (log)
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You know, I was just thinking, why isn't there more Ukrainian restaurants around here?  In Alberta some 10 percent of residents have Ukrainian ancestry (including me), yet I don't really see the food represented much.  By contrast, theres a much smaller Italian population, yet you take a look in the phonebook and theres more Italian restaurants than every other type combined.

I think you answered your own question ....

Not only that, but what little Ukrainian food I have had in Calgary has been garbage compared to what my grandmother made, or what I can make.

No chef wants to compete against "grandma"! :wink:

And the final part to my post.  I'm a professional cook, I've got a pretty high-powered résumé and also have quite a bit of experience with Ukrainian food, in addition to my French training (the chefs I apprenticed under came from Michelin starred restaurants in France and Switzerland).  I am seriously considering opening up a restaurant, but am a little worried about the viability of such a business.  Is there a market?  I would like to think that simply making great food (the easy part) would lead to success, but I know that's not always the case.  And seeing as eGulleters are pretty knowledgeable about food, would you eat fine dining level Ukrainian-inspired food?  I'm very confident the food itself would be as high a level as any French restaurant, but theres a certain 'stigma' associated with 'ethnic' foods. 

Interest in Eastern European food and culture is trending upward right now. Since there's been so much "cross-pollinization" of the various cultures, regardless of political boundries, I think a restaurant based on the entire region's cuisine, perhaps specializing in one particular variation, would work.

As always, it comes down to location, location, location.

SB (and $, $, $)

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I don't know the Calgary market at all - though I would assume there are plenty of people out there willing to eat good food in good restaurants.

What exactly constitutes Ukrainian fine-dining? The places in Winnipeg that offer Ukrainian food (and seem to be incredibly successful) are serving up what I would call homestyle foods. Lots of perogies, cabbage rolls, etc. Good food, but not high-end.

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Mike,

I think Pam has added a good comment... that is, Ukrainian food is "home food" and associating it with finer dining or at the most casual fine dining (CFD) would be at most it could support. For linen service restaurants genre's like Italian, French et al suit much better. Ukrainian food for many Ukrainian's like me is getting together with family at moms house or grandmas and not necessarily out on the town.

(I'd hate to imagine a wine pairing list for perogies...)

I do recall a Russian restaurant that had great perogies and cabbage rolls that was on 4th near the river (at Elbow) in the late 90's. Reasonable location, parking was nasty for that area, good walking/street traffic - however it only lasted a year or two...

Hope that helps.

Brian

Brian Misko

House of Q - Competition BBQ

www.houseofq.com

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Mike,

I think Pam has added a good comment...  that is, Ukrainian food is "home food" and associating it with finer dining or at the most casual fine dining (CFD) would be at most it could support.  For linen service restaurants genre's like Italian, French et al suit much better.  Ukrainian food for many Ukrainian's like me is getting together with family at moms house or grandmas and not necessarily out on the town.

(I'd hate to imagine a wine pairing list for perogies...)

Well, alot of French recipes/techniques are based on East European dishes. Sturgeon caviar and buckwheat blini, crêpes, now that people are more interested in health foods and alternative grains I've seen alot of French restaurants serving kasha in various forms. I remember an old chef of mine (french guy) being absolutely against serving borshch as the soup of the day, so we called it 'Beet soup' and puréed it, then served it with crème fraîche and dill - he loved it (and so did the customers).

Thomas Keller has aubergine (eggplant) caviar in his book, Michel Bras has buckwheat kasha and pampushkas in his (although he doesn't call it that). Much of Carême's cooking was influenced by his time spent cooking for the Tsar. Chicken Kyiv - a chicken supreme stuffed with herb butter would make any gourmet salivate.

Wine pairings? Pretty easy. I'm no sommelier, but Ukrainian dishes do share similarities with many French dishes, making wine pairings easy. Vareniky (with potato/cheese filling) for instance would go well with chardonnay. With cabbage and pork filling a Riesling.

There is a new Russian restaurant in C-town (Skazka), but unfortunately I haven't had the time to try it out...

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I think that chinese food made the similiar jump in Vancouver a few years ago from sweet and sour to pretty high end. The key though - was having a large Hong Kong chinese population that drove the demand for higher quality chinese food. Is there a large expat group with informed pallattes to support the restaurant?

However - your talking about Calgary - where money is flowing like water right now. Would'nt there be room for a Pretossian style restaurant. I mean - not necessarily just the caviar focused items - but the rest of the menu sounds interesting also.

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Mike - I think it could be a great idea. I wasn't sure what you were thinking for the food - hence my hesitation.

I also think more restaurants should offer kasha in every form possible :wink:.

As canucklehead stated - the money's flowing like water in out there. Seems like as good a time as any to try something.

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Our restaurant is named for supper in ukrainan. Now Saskatchewan probaley has a higher percentage population of Ukrainian people and I can tell you the ones that show up at my doorstep are a little disappointed that the food is not Ukrainian. When we do have a menu item that is remotely Ukrainian, people cannot get enough. I look forward to the winter months to try more recipes that are Ukrainian inspired.

For us, being open only 6 months has been a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything, the freedom to be your own boss is a great. There are many headaches and so forth but the look on people's faces when they eat your food is priceless.

I have to agree with Pam if the oppurtunity is presenting itself, take it, what do you have to lose (other than money that is) ? Being a niche restaurant can only be a benefit to you in many areas of the buiness. Best of luck. Next time my wife and I are in Calgary we hope to be dining in your restaurant.

Dan Walker

Chef/Owner

Weczeria Restaurant

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I waitressed at an upscale/casual fine dining Ukrainian Restaurant in Saskatoon called Lydia's. It had a pretty solid clientelle. (It's now a pub under new ownership). I think that there's definitely a place for this--Ukrainian food like perogies tend to be labour-intensive so fewer people are making them at home, but still love them. An afternoon tea with slavic tortes and strong Russian tea would be wonderful as well. I think you've got some great ideas, and you should go for it!

When I was at the Regina farmer's market this month I bought a container of beet leaf dumplings in creamed dill sauce. They called them "Beetniks." I love those!

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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Well, after a month and a half search for a job that's been fruitless despite getting MANY offers (I've checked out 5 restaurants in that time, none are worth me working at - either un-professional workplaces, terrible food and incompetant cooks, or all of the above), I'm going to start looking into my financial options for starting up this restaurant.

I know that I can create food as good as ANY restaurant in Calgary (I've got experience in multiple types of cuisine, pastry as well as savoury, not to mention cooking at a high level, I've always been the one cooking for critics and journalists - got a good review every single time BTW), jumping into the role of businessman/owner is going to be a new experience however. I have the financial means to do this myself (if I keep it relatively small), however I'm going to look at all my options.

Any restaurant I do will for sure be a blend of Russian/Ukrainian and French cuisines. The next year should be interesting for sure.

BTW, thanks for all the input, I've also floated this idea around in the real world and everyone I've talked to is excited about it.

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waylman Posted Aug 21 2006, 12:08 PM

QUOTE

(would you eat fine dining level Ukrainian-inspired food? )

"Not a chance. I do like Ukrainian food a lot but the cuisine does not lend itself well to a fine dining environment"

" A fine dinning environment”- This really does not lend itself to a fine dinning environment.

I think you do not leave very much room for any compromise or interpretation. " Fine Dinning" has expanded in the last few years and I believe you can create any menu and have it in a fine dinning environment.

That perception holds itself in a box and I believe we in the business have seen many changes in the "high end fine dining" the old days are gone and you have to divest in new ideas. One should open ears and eyes and watch many new cooks do what you think is impenetrable.

Old ways die-hard

There can be any cuisine in a fine room with great service and a staff who knows their menu. Professional, prompt and courteous service, this is what fine dinning lends itself to be.

Not a pretentious idea of what consorts to what food and service is.

Steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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