Allow us to introduce you to Brett Butterwick (right) and Oliver Lewis (left), the leaders of Local Public Eatery‘s upcoming location in Downtown Calgary. Brett, GM, and Oliver, Chef, have seventeen years combined experience in the industry and are very excited to be launching the laid-back Local concept in Alberta’s largest metropolis. We caught up with the two and peppered them with questions covering topics from how they got their starts in the industry to what they look for in new hires to the Calgary Flames. Check out what they had to say below…
Oliver, having been involved in other restaurant openings, including the first JOEY in Toronto, JOEY Don Mills, what’s the most difficult part of opening a restaurant?
Oliver: The most challenging part about opening a new restaurant is recruiting the right people. Making sure we have great partners who are passionate and engaging is really important. We find ourselves getting creative in ways to find and keep the industry’s best.
Tell us a little about the LOCAL concept, Brett. What makes it different from most pubs out there?
Brett: Great service, great food and a team who really loves the buzz of meeting new people. It’s like a home away from home, where the laid-back vibe of a local pub meets the quality of a great neighborhood restaurant. The LOCAL kitchen offers a fresh take on pub favourites, always handcrafted using quality ingredients. We like to think of it as common food done uncommonly well.
For someone who hasn’t been in to a LOCAL, how would you describe the menu and the concept from a food standpoint?
Oliver: From a product standpoint, we are passionate about purveying the best possible ingredients in our kitchen, period. We build what we can from hand – be it our press burger, or the daily fresh baked buns, the passion for food quality will be felt as soon as you walk in the front door. I challenge you to find a better burger!
LOCAL Public Eatery is part of the JOEY Restaurant Group. What do you like most about working for JOEY, Brett?
Brett: I like the ability to create your own path. The harder you work the more control you have over your own future and success.
Oliver, you got your start in the hospitality industry like many people do, washing dishes. What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting out in the kitchen?
Oliver: My advice to anyone thinking about getting started in a kitchen is [to] keep an open mind and be a sponge for everything that is happening around you. There are a million and one ways to do things so don’t take anything, no matter how small it seems, for granted. Oh, and have fun!
What do you look for in new hires for LOCAL, Brett? any advice for those people coming to interviews?
Oliver, developing talent in the kitchen is a big part of your role as a chef. What are the most important characteristics you look for in new kitchen recruits?
Oliver: There are many things you can train people on but I really look for the things you can’t. I love working with people that have a competitive edge and show a lot of care. I know those people are going to be eager and take pride in everything they do.
To either of you, what do you find are the advantages of evaluating an applicant using their EightSix profile instead of using their traditional resume?
Brett: [The EightSix profile] gives you an honest read on how serious [applicants] are; some individuals print off a resume from two-to-three years ago while this shows the care from filling out the online portion. What I have found is that the individuals who take the time [to fill out their profile] show up to interviews caring and willing. I also find it attracts the industry’s best rather than a walk-in off the street. [EightSix Network] has created a way to pre-screen so we do not waste the individual’s time if they are not qualified.
How did you get your start in hospitality and what attracted you to the industry, Brett?
Brett: I was a broke student in my last year of university and I had a friend who worked at JOEY who said he could get me a job. I jumped on the opportunity. As the years went on, I started shift management and six years later, I’m still really enjoying it.
Oliver, when did you know you wanted to pursue a culinary career and how did it come about?
Oliver: Making the switch to culinary was very unexpected for me. In high school and junior high I took a couple of cake decorating courses and loved baking. From there it was sidelined with my focus being on basketball. Once I graduated, I went into business to become an accountant because I was always good with numbers and was the Saucier at JOEY Chinook. That’s where my passion was rekindled. I immediately registered as an apprentice and jumped at the opportunity to be a Shift Leader in the kitchen. I find more challenges every day and the amount you can learn about food is endless, which all plays into my “hungry for more nature.”
On a totally different note, Brett, we know you’ve played a bit of hockey in your day. What do you think of the flames moves this year, dispatching Iginla to Pittsburgh and Bouwmeester to St. Louis? If you were in Jay Feaster’s place as GM, would you have made those deals?
Brett: Iginla deserves to be on a winning team and I feel it was three years too late as we got very little for him. I wish him the best and hope he wins the cup. Jay Feaster seems to be rebuilding his team and is getting youth, which is needed in a big way. Dealing Bouwmeester was again to rebuild in youth, which I agree with.
You moved away from home at sixteen [years of age] to play junior hockey. What did you miss more: home-cooked meals or fighting with your three brothers?
Brett: I did not miss a lot about moving away from home. I have always been an independent person but I would say I missed the relationships with my brothers; there was a void from age sixteen to twenty-four as I lived away from Calgary.
Oliver, you obviously do a ton of cooking at work. Do you like to cook at home as well?
Oliver: I love the BBQ. Nothing like sparking up the grill, having a few friends over and showing off how to cook that perfect steak. Most would argue I probably eat out just as much if not more; I love experiencing new food and seeing what’s going on in the city and community.
Rumor has it you like to golf, Brett. If you had to pick one, what’s your favourite course? Your lowest score?
Brett: I do. I’d say Glen Eagles. I shot a seventy-four thirteen years ago at Club Championships.
As a chef, you naturally pay special attention to the food you eat and that which you prepare for others. Oliver, what should everyone be eating more of?
Oliver: I feel the way food culture is going people are naturally more health conscience when they make their dietary choices. My only advice would be: be adventurous. A majority of the time it’s how the ingredient was prepared that will make all the difference.
LOCAL has very popular locations in Edmonton and Vancouver, and LOCAL 8th Avenue will be the first LOCAL in Calgary. Why Calgary, Brett? And, more specifically, why open up downtown on 8th Avenue?
Brett: To call it LOCAL, there needs to be a reason for people to go to their local watering hole. The beat of the downtown core needed a “rec room” feel where we over-deliver in all aspects. There needs to be a connection within this community while we make sure we really take care of the regular clientele and Calgary’s downtown beat is the perfect place to give them something like this.