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Q+A: The Dining Empire of Lance Hurtubise

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

Much has changed in Calgary since Lance Hurtubise made his first foray into our city’s culinary scene—as a dishwasher at the age of 12, making $2.10 an hour. From his days serving as a bus boy, waiter, bouncer and manager, to now as President and CEO of the Vintage Group, Hurtubise has seen it all in Calgary’s kitchens over the last four decades.

“Back when we started Moxie’s, it was about how many French fries we could put on a plate,” he laughs. “Now, I think, the culinary scene here is competitive with any city in Canada. It has come light years.”

A large part of what has fueled that rise to culinary acclaim, Hurtubise suggests, is our city’s gunslinger mentality—standing behind our classic plates, while continuing to prove that we are more than just a one-dish town.

“Calgary grew up as steak and potatoes, and we’re still known as steak and potatoes,” he explains, “but now Calgary is slowly starting to educate people on our food, and people are starting to come to Calgary and realize what it offers as a great culinary city.”

Vintage Group currently manages and maintains five different culinary concepts—Vintage Chophouse, Redwater Rustic Grille, Booker’s BBQ and Crab Shack, Butcher and the Baker, and Township Bar and Grill.

Although menus and venues alike continue to change in our city, Hurtubise says his recipe for success has remained much the same.

“It all comes back to the basics: good food, good service,” he says. “You get the best product you can, stay true to your roots, and don’t screw it up!”

So what has Hurtubise learned about Calgary dining after all these years dominating the local scene? We couldn’t resist sitting him down for a glass of vino and finding out!

What’s the best place to have a drink in the city?
Truthfully, I enjoy the lounge here at Vintage. This is often where I come to grab a drink. Red wine is the go-to for me. I like French, I like Old World wines, and the red meat here makes red wine taste great—it’s a great pairing.

Best place for dinner?
I love Briggs. I think they have great food. I usually order the paella there—it’s excellent.

Best restaurant to catch the game?
Moose McGuire’s is a great place to go, have a beer and watch the football game—game days are absolutely crazy there!

What sights would you insist visitors to Calgary check out?
The arts scene, I think, is huge here, and I think the culinary scene is huge here, too. So I would say, if you’re heading to the city, come have a good meal, and then go see a show. You’re bound to be entertained.

Where do you go in town to get the perfect cut of Alberta beef?
Vintage Chophouse, of course! I love the rib eye here—rib eye and oysters.

Where’s the best place to take clients for a business meeting?
I’d go to Briggs. I went to Cotto recently, the food is great there. Or La Chaumiere.

Where are you hanging out on a Friday night?
Original Joe’s downtown on Stephen Ave is a great place for a beer at the end of the week.

What’s the best place in town for Sunday brunch?
OEB Breakfest Co. Their breakfast bowl is really something!

Which restaurant has the most relaxed atmosphere in town?
Booker’s BBQ.

Most upscale?
Whitehall.

What dish does Calgary do very well, but it is surprisingly not known for?
Lamb is one of our biggest things here—everyone says beef, but Alberta lamb is some of the best lamb anywhere. I think our cocktail scene has come light years. Ramen is also talking off. Our barbecue is kind of a best-kept secret as well. And we’re doing a great job of Italian in this city.

Favourite dish in town and where is it found?
The brisket sandwich at Booker’s, easily. It’s memorable, and very crave-able to me. That is hands down my favourite dish in all of Calgary.

Which restaurant in Calgary, outside of those in the Vintage Group circuit, do you believe is performing at the top of its game right now?
Briggs does a great job of what they do. Añejo and Bridgette Bar are also doing fine work right now.

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