A graduate of Red River College’s Culinary Arts Honours program, Chef Jesse Friesen has never slowed down, no matter the climate of Winnipeg’s weather or food scene.Read Bio
At Club House for Chefs, we have seen and come to understand the impact recent circumstances have placed upon the foodservice industry. Chefs and restaurateurs have been forced into unpredictable situations involving heavy menu changes, door closures, staff cuts and operative pivots.
In response, we’ve adapted our platform as well and have made it our mission to keep the conversations going with our community. Each week, we will share chef stories, challenges, how they’re changing their businesses and adapting them to the new reality. Through these interviews, we hope to provide valuable insights, inspiration, guidance and advice for chefs by chefs.
Chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jackson – CHARCUT, charbar, Chix Egg Shop, Rooftop Bar Simmons and Alley Burger, Calgary
Chefs DeSousa and Jackson are no strangers to experiencing tough economic situations in their 10 years of business, including two recessions, one flood and now a pandemic. Now they are working hard to ensure their team-instilled sense of resiliency, flexibility and reactiveness keeps them afloat.
“One of the most challenging parts of our current situation was having to lose 90% of our employees,” said DeSousa. “It was absolutely heartbreaking, but we felt we had to in order to sustain the business for them all to come back to when this is over.”
To assist their staff until all the dining rooms can reopen, they have been providing care packages to employees and their families.
They’ve also launched CHAR-Curbside & Delivery – a safe, sanitary way for customers to receive their favourite dishes including, Spit Roasted and Smoked Bone-In Prime Rib, Hand-Crafted Artisan Charcuterie, the famous Alley Burgers and other CHAR-Classics.
“No shopping, no cooking, no cleaning. Just order, pre-pay and we pop it in your trunk or open your front door when you arrive,” DeSousa expressed.
Chef Alex Chen – Boulevard Kitchen + Oyster Bar, Vancouver
Boulevard Kitchen + Oyster Bar’s Chef Alex Chen is taking a similar approach to delivering the goods to his hungry customers. Stepping away from fine dining to bring restaurant-quality comfort food to families, Chef Chen has created BLVD Provisions Packs; complete with a charitable incentive.
BLVD Provisions Packs are freezable, vacuum-sealed variety packs containing multiple flavours of sides, house-made soups and sauces. Funds raised via purchases of the packs go to supporting hospitality employees and the Vancouver Food Bank.
"We love feeding people, but this is about more. It's about community," said Chen. “BLVD Provisions not only provides patrons with exceptional cuisine to enjoy at home but allows me to keep some of my employees working.”
Chef Jesse Friesen – Academy Hospitality, Winnipeg
While the dining areas of his establishments – The Merchant Kitchen, Pizzeria Gusto, Yard Burger and The Good Fight Taco – might be closed for now, the kitchens are still fully operational to keep good food coming to customers and paycheques in the hands of staff.
Chef Friesen also has take ‘n’ bake items available for delivery through his new grocery business, Mottola Grocery. These products include entrees and soups that are ready-to-cook from home, making food shopping and meal prep much easier for Winnipeg families during this pandemic.
Chefs let’s keep the conversation going. Submit your story to CHFC@McCormick.com.
We’re all in this together.