Piles of Potatoes. Mountains of Meat. Tons and Tons of
NEXT TIME YOU BUY GROCERIES, SPARE A THOUGHT FOR A LOCAL CHEF.
You may think you may go through a lot of chicken, tomato sauce or milk at home, but you probably don’t go through food quite like the average Calgary restaurant or food retailer. Here’s a look at a handful of local businesses, plus the ingredients that they’re famous for using in vast quantities.
by Shelley Boettcher
The ingredient: FLOUR
How much? Each COBS bakery in Calgary uses about 330 pounds of flour each day, to produce about 661 pounds of dough.
“The flour comes from Lethbridge, from wheat grown and milled in the Lethbridge area. It’s some of the best in the world,” says David van Rietschoten, COBS Bread’s technical baker.
While COBS has locations across North America, each is slightly different when it comes to customer favourites. “The sweet stuff in Calgary is particularly popular, everything from the scones to the cinnamon buns,” says van Rietschoten.
His personal pick, however? “Anything made with our sour- dough, especially our sourdough loaves and our sunflower and flax sourdough,” he says. “We use a natural levain, a natural starter, and it produces a very tasty product with a good crust.”
The ingredient: BEEF
GAUCHO BRAZILIAN BARBECUE
How much? About 48,000 pounds each year at the Calgary location.
This traditional Brazilian churrascaria – barbecue house – serves beef from certified Angus cattle raised in Alberta. That’s a lot of cattle, considering one live Angus bull weighs roughly 2,300 pounds.
Gaucho chef/co-owner Ede Rodrigues says his favourite way to eat beef is the picanha, a traditional cut sometimes called a sirloin cap or rump cover.
“It’s very tender and juicy. I like it rare,” he says. “You can’t get tired of it, ever. It’s never too much.”
It’s a customer favourite, too, he says, as well as the alcatra, a garlic-topped sirloin, and the beef parmigiano.
“We throw parmigiano on the top and give it a little toast,” Rodrigues says. “People really like that one.”
The ingredient: POTATOES
PETER’S DRIVE-IN (CALGARY LOCATION)
How much? 10,500 cases a year (50 pounds in a case); that’s 525,000 pounds of potatoes a year in Calgary
“We start with potatoes, fresh potatoes, which we still have as potatoes when a customer asks for French fries. We don’t do any pre-production. We don’t have buckets of water with pre-cut fries hanging around,” says co-owner Stephen Hayden.
Each potato then gets dropped into an electronic cutter, which washes, cuts and spins the potato to get out all the extra starch and moisture.
“From there, we dump them straight into the fryer, which contains trans-fat-free 100 percent pure canola oil, the best cooking oil in the world,” he says.
Within minutes, a new order of Peter’s famous fries is ready to go out the door. “They’re unbelievable. They’re just so fresh,” says Hayden. “You can’t make them any better.”
CLUCK N CLEAVER
How much? Likely 25,000 birds per year.
“That’s a rough ballpark figure, because we haven’t even been open for a year,” says Francine Gomes, “director of poultry,” who co-owns the place with her sister, chef Nicole Gomes. “But that includes all our fried and rotisserie chickens, plus our chicken sandwiches, everything.”
So many birds, so many ways to prepare them. Do the Gomes sisters ever get sick of chowing down on chicken? “Surprisingly, neither one of us is tired of them,” Francine says. “Sometimes I feel like eating fried chicken. Some days, I prefer them roasted.”
All are grain-fed and hormone-free, from local farms as far south as Lethbridge and as far north as Red Deer.
And for the record, the Gomes sisters don’t just eat their own cooking.
“We’ll still go out to other restaurants and order chicken. Really,” Francine says. “A good way to judge a good restaurant is how the chefs cook chicken. Believe it or not, you can cook chicken poorly.”
The ingredient: GROUND PORK
KING’S RESTAURANTS AND WONTON KING
How much: About 1,100 to 1,200 pounds of pork per week. (That’s roughly 21,000 wontons every week, more than
a million a year.)
The team that makes these wontons is small – three to five women, depending on the day – but dedicated to the art of handcrafted wontons, says co-owner Angela Chuy.
“Every single one is hand-wrapped,” she says. “These pillows of goodness aren’t extruded from a machine.”
And pillows of goodness, they are. Regulars show up every week for their fix and even Chuy, who has grown up eating wontons, says she never gets tired of them. “I eat them five times a week, easily,” she says. “If I’m at work for breakfast or lunch, or lunch and dinner, I often have two meals of wontons in a day. I’m really passionate about wontons.”
The ingredient: BANANAS
PRAIRIE MILL BREAD CO.
How much? About 420 pounds per week. One 40-pound box of bananas makes about 24 loaves, each weighing about 2-1/2 pounds.
“We make a lot of banana bread: banana bread with chocolate chips, banana bread with strawberries, plain banana bread, too,” says owner John Juurlink. “Everyone contributes to the peeling process.”
That’s because it isn’t anyone’s favourite job, he admits. The store typically get its bananas from a local supermarket, after they’re too ripe for the average grocery customer – but when they’re perfectly ripe for baking. “We buy them, peel them and get them into buckets in the fridge,” says Craig Jensen, the bakery’s manager. “Our banana loaf is one of the first things that goes into the oven because it’s one of the first things that goes out in the morning. It’s out of the oven by 5-5:30 in the morning, so it’s ready when our doors open at 6.” And it flies out the door. “It’s always been one of our customer favourites,” Jensen says.
The ingredient: TOMATO SAUCE
LINA’S ITALIAN MARKET
How much? Between 600 and 700 litres per week.
Lina’s staff starts with canned Italian peeled tomatoes to make roughly 100 litres of the fresh sauce daily. It’s cooked down every morning, with handfuls of herbs and other seasoning. Then it gets used in or on many of the café’s popular dishes, including the lasagna and the fresh pastas. It’s also for sale in the cooler, if you want to try it at home to slather on your pizza dough.
Despite its obvious popularity, there aren’t really any big secrets to the prepa- ration. “Just good ingredients,” says chef and general manager Keith Luce.
“It needs no added sweetness, because we cook it long and slow. That’s what Italian food is – good ingredients and good technique.”
THE ITALIAN SUPER MARKET
How much? “If we tell you how it’s made, we gotta kill you, right?” says Emilio Di Gaeta, co-owner of The Italian Super Market.
“We’re using my mom’s secret recipe and it’s simmered down for hours and hours. It’s the recipe that she made for us when we were growing up. She’d never really measure anything. It was a little of this, a little of that.”
What he will confess: “We pretty much make sauce every day. It’s the same sauce that we use on our hot food, the same sauce we package and sell pre-made to the public, the same sauce we’ve been making for the last 20 years or so.”
SCARPONE’S / THE ITALIAN STORE
How much? 88,608 litres per year for everything!
“We start with San Marzano DOP tomatoes and crushed ripe roma tomatoes from Salerno,” says operations manager Gio Oliverio.
“We do a pizza sauce for the pizza, the Alberto’s sauce in the jars to buy and take home, and a sauce for all the production – the lasagnas, the cannelloni, the take-home meals, things like that.”
The ingredient: CREAM AND MILK
MADE BY MARCUS ICE CREAM
How much? 384 litres of milk and 384 litres of cream each week in the summer, slightly less in winter.
“We always get the milk from Vital Greens in Lethbridge,” says owner and ice cream maker Marcus Purtzki, and the cream comes from Gelimax, also in Lethbridge.
“It’s a cool relationship that we have with our suppliers. I’ve been using them since day one.”
Purtzki takes that cream and milk and turns it into his popular ice creams, which are sold at select retailers around town and at his popular 17th Avenue SW shop.
“In the summer, my favourite flavour was passionfruit-basil, for sure, and in the winter, I go for the deeper flavours. I really like rocky road with its dark chocolate, nuts and caramel,” he says. “But our customers really go for the fruitier flavours, plus cookies and cream, salted caramel, that kind of thing.”
The ingredient: SUGAR
JELLY MODERN DOUGHNUTS
How much? 30 to 42 kilos per week (10 to 12 kilos of granulated, 20 to 30 kilos of icing sugar)
Depending on which flavours he’s making, Jelly Modern’s head baker Richard Ferolin goes through a lot of sugar. A lot. Salted caramel doughnuts, named “Nenshi” after our Mayor, contain the most, he says, while the cake doughnuts
– depending on how they’re iced – contain the least.
“Maple-bacon and the s’mores, those are our customers’ two favourites,” he says.
He, however, has a weakness for the Callebaut chocolate hand-dipped doughnut. “It’s very tasty, very yummy,” he says. But even though he could eat one every day if he wanted, he never overindulges. “I have one every two weeks,” he says.
Read entire article in the digital issue of City Palate.