that aren’t. Sturgeon, frog’s legs, house smoked oysters and cured trout paté, to name a few. You can play it safe or be as adventurous as you desire, Big Fish is more than happy to accommodate. “I think things like the frogs legs, they’re not the biggest seller by any means but people who try them and know what they are, love them,” Dwayne said. “We had a little girl today order them at lunch and she’s like, ‘I think I’m going to try them!’ You could tell in her voice that she had never had them before but she was willing to, and she loved them.” “It’s always surprising when somebody orders them and they don’t know what to expect, and they don’t know if they’re going to like them, and they do and that’s always fun,” Alberta added. Along with more adventurous eaters, customers are noticeably more aware of sourcing and supporting restaurants who support local suppliers as well, a now given among most restaurants. In a land-locked province, having fresh product means having great suppliers; a relationship Dwayne and Alberta worked to build years ago through a number of other restaurant ventures. Dwayne and Alberta have known each other for 17 years, since both worked in the early days of River Café. Twelve years ago they opened their first business
together, a comfort food institution in this city, you may have heard of: Diner Deluxe. After a couple of hugely successful years, Urban Bakery was opened next door, due in large part to a need for space as the kitchen and prep areas at the time were severely limited for a diner consistently pulling in 400 covers a day. By 2004 Dwayne and Alberta also owned Piato, a Greek restaurant at the time, now Open Range, just up the road from Diner Deluxe. Similar to their experience with the bakery, they took over the neighbouring business space. “There was a business next to us that did a midnight move and at the time we had an idea for a really streetwise sort of oyster bar and seafood restaurant that would fit in Calgary,” Dwayne said. “We liked the fact that because we had the diner and the bakery and this all in the same street it was actually, operationswise, really good, because you could be anywhere in five minutes.” Dwayne added: “We’re lucky that we’ve had the same suppliers since back to the River (Café) days and we share storage space so really, we keep the seafood over here but everything else we share.” Having sold Diner Deluxe and Urban Bakery two years ago, Dwayne and
There’s a fabulous prize waiting at Big Fish for the winner of our special competition! You’ll enjoy your own private oyster shucking lesson with Chef Andrew Tsang and then dinner for two afterwards! (dinner valued at $100) We want to hear your experience of the first time you had a raw oyster. Where it was? Who were you with? Who talked you into it? Go to culinairemagazine.ca and let us know about your first oyster experience, to be entered in the competition. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Alberta have been able to focus much more energy on Big Fish and feel the added attention garnered from their recent television debut isn’t anything that they can’t handle at this stage of their careers. “We’ve pretty much got it sorted at this point in time but in the early years of when the diner was explosively busy, we were so over our head because we had never done anything like that before,” Alberta said. “It’s actually nice coming at this point in our life span because we’re ready. Everyone’s trained. Everybody knows what they’re doing and I thought we really took it in our stride.” Now, in perfect rhythm, Dwayne and Alberta have found their groove at Big Fish with their future goals not being to be spread too thin, as they were in years past, but to continue to deliver the same beautiful food that has earned them such loyal customers. “This business is gruelling but we have an exit strategy,” Dwayne said. “As much as you can have in this business, I suppose. But we still enjoy it and we do a lot. We haven’t lost that passion so I think the day I lose the passion for it is the day I’ll do something else.” Having worked in restaurants since he was 14, Cory translated his passion for food into his journalistic ambitions, not critiquing but meeting the people who make it and finding out what inspires them.