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Dining Spotlight: Stephen Deere


May 22, 2018 

Photo by Nadine Benoit.

Stephen Deere decided to try something a little less traditional when opening Modern Steak in 2014. The steakhouse and cocktail lounge has a rotating, seasonal menu that encourages guests to choose their steak from a selection of local ranches, all in a bright and energetic space. Guests can expect to hear hip-hop, R&B, dancehall and reggae tunes that are selected — and often spun — by the owner himself.

“Sometimes when I don’t want to run a restaurant I play some music,” Deere says. “It keeps you fresh.”

DJing provides a passion and creative outlet for the busy restaurant owner; you might spot him mixing at a concert with best buddy DJ Kav.

Deere grew up in Calgary in Forrest Lawn, where he checked out records from the public library only a few blocks away from his school, fostering a lifelong love of music. He says running a restaurant and DJing share a similarity in that they both provide instant feedback.

“With DJing, people are having fun and the dance floor is full — or the dance floor is empty. When people get their food, they get an emotional response and they tell you if it’s good or bad right away. That’s a great driver everyday to hit that moment with guests.”

Deere got his start as a humble dishwasher when he was 14 years old. Over the years he worked his way up in restaurants and nightclubs around the world, including a stint in Montego Bay where he managed multiple restaurants.

While he still considers Jamaica a second home, Calgary ultimately called him back. After owning two highly successful restaurants (Escoba Bistro and Wine Bar, and Muse), he decided to open a steakhouse that appeals to Kensington’s lively demographic.

The menu concept was inspired by his love of local cuisine, nurtured by his mother’s side of the family who came to Canada from Spain. His grandfather made Serrano ham and chorizo sausage using local ingredients.

“You should use what you have. We have the best beef, so let’s do this amazing steak concept with local beef where we can showcase different styles.”

The restaurant is truly his vision. He works with the chef on developing each new menu, handles the graphic design, social media and even collaborated with interior designers on the layout of the restaurant.

Now that Modern Steak has been running for a couple of years and has cultivated a loyal crowd, one of Deere’s new favourite responsibilities is acting as a mentor.

“Seeing people that have worked for me as a chef or manager doing well in what they’ve chosen to do is a big deal to me. This is an apprentice-style business and people have mentored me. It’s a responsibility to pay it back.”

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