Revitalizing a quiet neighbourhood near Whyte Avenue, the new Ritchie Market features a butcher shop, coffee shop, and a highly anticipated brewpub, Biera. The head chef, Christine Sandford, is excited to be at the helm of this new eatery on the Edmonton food scene and working with Blind Enthusiasm Brewing Company.
“We’re changing people’s idea of what you can eat with beer,” says Sandford. “When people imagined what the restaurant was going to be like, they thought it was going to be a lot of pub food, burgers and fries, and it’s nothing like that. It can be light and delicious.” Sandford and the team at Biera aim to give customers a unique dining experience, pairing quality local food with craft beer in the same way that other restaurants may pair wine or cocktails.
Part of being the head chef is imparting techniques and experiences—and Sandford has plenty to go around. She has trained as a butcher and in various restaurants both in Edmonton and overseas, including interning with Belgian chef Kobe Desramaults at his Michelin-starred restaurant, from whom Sandford learned skills now being used in her own kitchen. “I think we’re one of the first places to have a full-on charcoal grill. It’s an awesome thing to teach other chefs because it’s quite a technical, old style of cooking,” she says. “I can see why people ended up going to gas grills because it’s obviously more convenient, but the flavour is just incomparable.”
Upon returning to her hometown, Sandford has rediscovered the availability and variety of local product and ingredients. Combing through farmers’ markets and speaking with local farmers has fuelled her inspiration. “In the fall, it gets more challenging. You prepare for it in the summer months, and you adapt,” she says. “That’s part of being a chef: being adaptable to any situation. You get to constantly be creative.”