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Interview: Vegan Chef Lexx Ambrose

By Anna Rybnickova

Credit: Britton Ledingham

When they were 19, Lexx Ambrose decided they wanted to be a chef. They became fascinated by the skills of their roommate who was a cook at a restaurant at that time. Since they were raised in an artist-forward family, they decided to turn creativity into a career. Ambrose became a vegan more than five years ago while they were a sous chef at the mainly meat-based Cactus Club Cafe in Vancouver. For a year, they were struggling to decide why they continued to work in an environment that didn’t align with their values anymore. Eventually, they became a head chef at Zend Conscious Lounge in Vancouver. After taking a leap of faith, they moved to Calgary to help open an entirely vegan brunch spot — The Dandelion in Ramsay. They were lucky to be at the point in their career where they had the ability to specialize in a more niche market such as vegan food. Now, Ambrose is a freelance vegan chef with their own company Plant Plate, catering for retreats and private events, organizing workshops and much more.

What is your favourite vegetarian/vegan place to go to in YYC? Why?

This is such a hard question to narrow down because so many places offer so many different great ideas involving food. However, Raw Eatery and Market in Kensington hits the top of places I’ve been back to the most. When you invest in a meal, you invest in who makes it and I truly believe you can taste intention and love. I have never eaten something from Raw that wasn’t jam-packed full of love, the owners live and breathe that place including choosing to truly care about their business and the people who come in which is huge for me when deciding where I choose to spend my money.

How do you perceive the vegan/vegetarian scene in Calgary? Do businesses respond to this trend and is there enough to choose from?

Calgary is starting to come up for sure, in the past four years alone it’s incredible to see everything that has popped up and what is coming to our city soon — such as a vegan butcher shop called Charcuterie that has taken social media by storm with local excitement. Calgary responds very well to vegan and veg business ventures, I have watched all walks of life embrace the food scene with open arms and come back time and time again. It’s very cool to be a part of that support and watch a city like Calgary become more open. As for is there enough to choose from? Never enough! Calgary is so vast in geography that it would take an entire economy of vegan food to even scratch the surface of our city. Vancouver is half the land size and outnumbers us with vegan food by the hundreds. Every corner you turn you can find something, whereas here we are still in the phase of having to plan destinations in order to eat veg luxury.

What are some of the ways the culinary scene in Calgary could improve in regard to a vegetarian and vegan diet?

Calgary needs more innovation, we have lots of comfort food, which is wonderful, especially since our city is more winter than city and comfort food may be the only thing that keeps people here — kidding of course. But we need places offering experiences that blow people away with culinary skills. Maybe our economy isn’t in a place to sustain that kind of business yet but I have a feeling it will come, I say this with confidence because of future plans I have myself and hopefully others are out there thinking the same thing and are just waiting for the right time to do so.

Where would you recommend getting vegan ingredients that are a bit harder to get in the city?

Most people venturing into the vegan cooking world can actually find anything you would cook within any grocery store you walk into, however for those wanting to challenge themselves to make more elaborate recipes I would say Bulk Barn is a good place to start for things such as vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, or egg replacing ingredients such as flax. To achieve tricks like egg taste in food you’ll need to add kala namak black salt to your spice cupboard, it has a very sulphuric taste and smell which adds to the overall and that can be found at The Silk Road Spice Merchant in Inglewood, which I highly recommend everyone check out because it’s a chef’s candy shop. Lastly, I would say Community Natural Foods has a vast selection of other ingredients you won’t find in a typical grocery store.

You are a freelance vegan chef. Where can people see you in action?

To see me in action you’d have to summon me to work with you or for you, I offer meal prep services, private workshops, private chef experiences, retreats, catering, you name it and I probably do it on some level. If you follow me on social media you might catch announcements for pop-up dinners in collaboration with other businesses, but if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to plan anything and only gets involved in experiences on a whim, we’ll never cross paths because I’m not situated in an open environment that is shared with the general public. So if anyone out there wants to connect, find me online and do so — I’m all about social connections, even if I don’t feed you and you just want to talk food, I’ll be into it.

If you had to eat only one meal for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

This is surprisingly easy to answer. Pancakes. And why? Because pancakes have never let me down. I have never had a plate of pancakes and experienced disappointment. So why risk eating one thing forever if I’ve been disappointed by it in the past? Eat smart, eat pancakes.


9 Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants to Try in Calgary

By Anna Rybnickova

Courtesy of The Allium

In this day and age, being a vegan or a vegetarian is far from rare, and businesses are responding accordingly to this new demand. A few years ago, the only thing a vegetarian could eat at a restaurant were fries or a salad, in the recent years veggie restaurants have sprung up all over the place and as for menu choices, the sky is the limit — fortunately, Calgary’s culinary scene is no exception.


The Coup has become a somewhat classic in the vegetarian and vegan scene of Calgary and no wonder! Most of their ingredients come from local organic farms, their dishes are always fresh and made from scratch and their deep ecological ethics are an inspiration to many. Along with a wonderfully friendly staff, their culinary wonders that will appear on your plate, brimming with delicious goodies, will make this an experience your taste buds won’t forget any time soon!

924 17 Ave SW, thecoup.ca


This cute, plant-based restaurant located in the busy heart of Calgary’s beltline offers exclusive dishes made from locally sourced, ethical ingredients which are given a creative spin by the Allium’s chefs and the whole kitchen team. You won’t find any regular veggie spin-offs of carnivore meals here as the dishes are crafted individually and with a purpose to be valuable and yummy in their own right. Together with a wide selection of cocktails, the cozy environment full of hipster ceiling plant hangers filled with greenery, the muted colours, wood and large windows, this place will win your heart.

211a 12 Ave SW, theallium.ca

Courtesy of The Allium


With two locations to choose from, this purely vegan café offers a wide variety of plant-based dishes, inspired by Thai, European and Canadian cuisine. There is no need to limit yourself when it comes to classics, such as burgers or even poutine! Their BBQ Pulled Porkless Burger made of jackfruit or Mac N’ Cheeze with homemade cashew cheezy sauce are simply finger-licking good.

4127 6 Street NE; 510 77 Ave SE, heartschoices.com


Located in the trendy Beltline district, this small family-owned café offers everything your veggie-loving heart desires. Their motto is to offer delicious, fast, plant-based meals that are healthy and affordable. SaVeg was born from the combination of Korean cuisine and vegan cooking. You can enjoy favourite classics with a delightful twist, such as “No Eggs Benedict” or “Fillet No Fish” and pair it with one of their fun smoothies, overflowing with fruit and all that is good and pure.

637 11 Ave SW, savegcafe.ca

Courtesy of saVeg


This café, located in up-and-coming Ramsay, combines consciously chosen ingredients with delicious flavours in order to create unique dishes that will satisfy all your cravings. Their menu gradually changes throughout the year so as to always use seasonal produce. Try their signature Dandelion Bowl and enjoy one of their freshly squeezed juices.

1048 8 St SE, thedandelionyyc.ca

And where to take your carnivore friends so you can all enjoy a meal of your choice?


This bistro offers a wide range of plant and meat-based dishes for all times of day, be it breakfast, brunch, lunch or anything in between. The chefs innovatively created a menu full of veggie and vegan options that will leave your tummy full and happy.

824 Edmonton Trail

Mighty Buddha Brunch Bowl, Namo Café & Bistro, credit curiocitycalgary


East Indian cuisine in Calgary offers many choices to meat and plant lovers alike. Start your dining experience with a little appetizer, how about a delicious vegetable samosa? Then continue onto all your favourite veggie dishes from the Indian cuisine that will take you to the faraway lands.

1110 Panatella Blvd NW, tamarindcalgary.com


This contemporary all-day-restaurant will dazzle you with its chic, modern design and family-style dining. The variety of plant-based meals, salads and pasta to choose from is combined with fish and meat meals, so everyone leaves happy. The restaurant also offers a brunch menu and the Little Henry café right next door serves high-quality coffee and little nibbles.

1209 1 St SW, tenfoothenry.com

Courtesy of Ten Foot Henry


Who says Italian food is all about meat? This Italian street food bistro, with numerous branches throughout Calgary and popular among locals, offers delicious Italian food that everyone can enjoy. Their vegetarian piadina, pasta, pizza or insalate, topped up with Tuscan fries and a glass of original Italian beer makes this a place worth a visit.

1520 14 St SW; 7929 11 St SE; 104 Country Village Rd NE; 515-4700 130 Ave SE, viacibo.com

Grilled vegetable pizza, Via Cibo, credit: Send and Receive

June Hot Dining

By Janice Hudson



• Catch some rays on the rooftop patio at Your Father’s Moustache on Spring Garden Road. The fun and lively space has beer aplenty on tap, including three signature brews from the RockBottom Brewpub downstairs.
• Downtown, head to The Maxwell’s Plum on Grafton Street for a cold pint on the sunny patio. The landmark bar has the city’s largest selection of draft beer, including top selections from Maritime craft breweries like Halifax’s Garrison Brewing and Cape Breton’s Big Spruce.
• For fabulous views of Halifax harbour, check out Gahan House in the Historic Properties. This popular Prince Edward Island brewpub recently opened its first Nova Scotia location, serving its own line of handcrafted beers. Try the Beach Chair lager for a refreshing summer sip.

Editor’s Choice

Steak9246Two downtown restaurants have once again earned the prestigious CAA/AAA Four Diamond Award.
Recognized for the eighth year in a row, Onyx on Argyle Street is a sleek resto bar showcasing local ingredients in delicious globally inspired recipes. Cut Steakhouse on Lower Water Street has received the award every
year since opening in 2008. The menu boasts premium beef (dry-aged and butchered on-site) with
an artful wine list and inventive sides.





• A leader in Halifax’s emerging vegan scene, Envie touts a menu of hearty meals like vegan ribs, grilled cheese and indulgent raw desserts. Catering to dietary restrictions, the menu is 90 per cent gluten free. Find the stylish restaurant on the corner of Agricola and Charles streets in the North End.
• In the West End on Windsor Street, Wild Leek has made-from-scratch vegan comfort food. Chef Kirsten Haggart whips up recipes like mac’n cheese, seitan sandwich, and the popular coconutbacon “CBLT.” Wash it down with a fresh-squeezed juice and save room for gourmet cupcake.


CREATIVE CORNERSTONEGio-Tea--024---Version-2

Downtown at Gio on
Market Street, Chef Bee Choo
Char gives traditional recipes
an inventive new twist. Her
delicious version of poutine
includes fried polenta fingers
topped with duck confit, red
wine jus and blue “Cheez
Whiz.” Open for lunch and
dinner, Gio has a sommelierchosen
wine list plus creative cocktails and martinis.



_MG_4104Specializing in wood-fired pizza, Morris East won bronze in the non-traditional category at the recent International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. Its Nova Scotia-inspired winning pie featured pears poached in Blomidon Estate Baco Noir and prosciutto from Halifax’s Ratinaud Charcuterie. Visit in downtown Halifax on Morris Street and in Bedford on Larry Uteck Boulevard.

Meet Winnipeg’s Two Hot New Restaurants

Yep, it’s vegan!

The East Exchange is rapidly evolving as one of the city’s hottest dining districts. Helping that evolution are two new exciting eateries that recently opened in side-by-side heritage spaces:

• Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria brings us the flavour of Corrientes Ave, Buenos Aires, with authentic baked empanadas full of savoury fillings like smoked salmon, pickerel and feta cheese. 137 Bannatyne Ave, 204-219-5398.

• Boon Burger Café (pictured), Canada’s first all-vegan burger joint, serves up killer plant-based patties and poutine at its second spot inside a converted carriage tunnel. 141 Bannatyne Ave, 204-504-5394.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for April 27 to 29

Friday, April 27
The biannual Ottawa International Writers Festival takes place this weekend and will feature world-renowned writers speaking about their experiences in the field of history, science, fiction, poetry, and more. Some of the big-name draws include Giller Prize-winning author Vincent Lam and CBC correspondent Nahlah Ayed.

In an event that will showcase young Canadian performers, Handel’s opera Giulio Cesare tells the story of seduction and politics. The semi-staged production, put on by Thirteen Strings, is the highlight of the orchestra’s season.

Ana Miura plays at the first-ever Ottawa Grassroots Festival

Saturday, April 28
Folk music takes centre stage at the first-ever Ottawa Grassroots Festival. The event features local talent and includes Ottawa artists such as The Bytown Ukulele Group and Ana Miura.


Hot Dining: Vegetarian Roundup

Greens your go-to? We highlight three restaurants for veg heads.

A pretty dish of raw zucchini pasta from Café My House.

Café My House (featured)
Here, the goal is to make vegan food appealing, approachable, and available to both vegans and non-vegans. A sit-down restaurant that offers creative breakfast, lunch, and dinner options in a casual atmosphere. 1729 Bank St., 613-733-0707. www.cafemyhouse.com (more…)

Hot Dining: Gourmet Vegan at ZenKitchen

Food is an art at ZenKitchen.

Whatever your preconceptions about vegan food, throw ’em out the window. Even meat eaters will have a change of heart when they sit down at ZenKitchen, Ottawa’s gourmet vegan restaurant that has earned rave reviews and numerous accolades (mostly recently, winning silver at the annual Gold Medal Plates competition). Nestled in an unassuming house in Chinatown, this eatery has a relaxed atmosphere that serves as a nice backdrop for the star of the show: the food. Chef Caroline Ishii and sommelier Dave Loan (also the owners) approach vegan cuisine and the accompanying wine list with thought and creativity, and each plate is as scrumptious as it is fun to look at. Popular dishes include the seitan, a wheat-based product with the look and texture of a cutlet, and the lively Mexican sopé. 634 Somerset St. W., 613-233-6404.

Hot Dining: Top 5 Cool Desserts

Cantaberry ice cream dessert at BDI.

When the sun beats down and you need to cool off, think like a kid and reach for one of these creamy treats that deliver on flavour and creativity:

Renowned for its wide range of banana-flavoured ice cream treats, Banana Boat scores a hit with its banog milkshake. Real bananas, egg, rich vanilla soft serve and a pleasing dash of cinnamon flavour this one-of-a-kind smooth sipper. 390 Osborne St, 475-4610, Map 1: T-5.

Boon Burger’s vanilla soft serve may look like ice cream, but coconut milk and rice pudding actually make up the vegan-friendly base. Vegans and non-vegans alike are scooping up this silky dessert for its refreshing coconut taste. 79 Sherbrook St, 415-1391, Map 1: R-2.

The Cantaberry (pictured) at landmark ice cream stop Bridge Drive-In excites the eyes as much as the palate. A scooped-out cantaloupe half houses a vanilla soft ice cream sundae smothered in tart blueberry sauce. Whispy clouds of whipped cream, chopped peanuts, juicy pieces of cantaloupe and a sweet cherry on top complete this adored fruit sensation. 766 Jubilee Ave, 475‑6850, Map 2: E-4.

Cool and creamy Argentinian gelato is the specialty inside Eva’s Gelato & Coffee Bar’s brightly lit and gleaming space. Pair signature caramel-based dulce de leche with a scoop of uncanny banana split flavour for a heavenly sugar rush. 101-1001 Corydon Ave, 452-3827, Map 1: T-1.

Beneath swirls of whipped cream and rivers of chocolate sauce lies a fried, crunchy surprise in La Bamba’s popular ice cream dessert. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is lightly coated in a sweet house-made batter of Rice Krispies and Maria cookies that crackles with each bite. 222 Osborne St, 415-5713, Map 1: S-3.

Weekend Roundup, September 4 to 7

Labour Day on Monday makes for a long weekend, so we bring you a special four-day guide of what to do in the city.

Friday: Vernon Wells and his Blue Jays teammates take on the New York Yankees.

Friday: Vernon Wells and the Blue Jays take on the New York Yankees.

Friday, September 4
Root for the home team as the Toronto Blue Jays take on the New York Yankees in today’s Major League Baseball game at the Rogers Centre.

Howl with laughter at The Second City’s final performance of Are We There Yet?, a sketch comedy revue about families and the summer, shaken up with some improv. Kids age six and older are welcome—and may be invited on stage to participate in the antics.

Move your hips to the mariachi sound of violins, guitars, mandolins and trumpets at the Hispanic Fiesta.

Saturday: Look for local produce at the Evergreen Brick Works farmers market.

Saturday: Look for local produce at the Evergreen Brick Works farmers market.

Saturday, September 5
It’s the opening day of the 60th annual Canadian International Air Show! Peer into the sky to find the Canadian Forces’ famed Snowbirds roar across the blue, twisting and turning in a display of aerial stunts.

Pick up Hot & Savoury pickles, preserved locally in Toronto, from the Toorshi Foods table at the Evergreen Brick Works farmers’ market.

If the pickles aren’t spicy enough for your palate, turn up the fire at the Hot + Spicy Food Festival, where you can purchase a variety of spices, sauces, marinades and dips from the Red Hot Marketplace.

Sunday: See Karen Robinson in <em>The Tempest</em>.

Sunday: See Karen Robinson in The Tempest.

Sunday, September 6
It’s the last night of the Canadian Stage Dream in High Park. Cozy up to your date on a blanket and watch Shakespeare’s The Tempest under the stars.

Treat yourself to Sunday brunch on the intimate patio at Live Organic Food Bar, where you can get dejeuner served up raw and vegan—try the walnut crepes with shaved pear and strawberry compote and cashew chantilli cream.

Unearth some of the best spots for dim sum on the Tour Guys‘ Culture, Cuisine, and Colours free tour of Chinatown and Kensington Market.

Monday: Ride the ferris wheel on the CNE's last night.

Monday: Ride the ferris wheel on the CNE's last night.

Monday, September 7
Recognize and celebrate workers’ efforts and rights at the Labour Day Parade. This year’s theme is “Good Jobs For All.”

Get a glimpse into the indulgent diversions of the affluent people of Zabid in the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibition, Coffee & Smokes in Medieval Yemen. (Take the kids—each child for every adult gets free admission to the ROM this weekend!)

The Canadian National Exhibition closes today, so it’s your last chance to down a bag of mini doughnuts, catch an illusionist show, and view the sun setting over the city from atop a ferris wheel.