Zilford's Fried Chicken with a Side of YYC Style

YYC Food Trucks' Spring Frenzy is undoubtedly one of my favourite events here in Calgary. Since moving here close to three years ago (wow - how time flies!) I have attended the Spring Frenzy religiously every year. The first year I went, I was honestly just excited to see what YYC had to offer, and was not at all disappointed (2 words - mini donuts). The following year, I attended as a blogger and was able to interview a few trucks and get to know the driving force behind these diverse groups coming together. This year, I went to support a friend of mine who chased his dreams and officially launched the best Nashville fried chicken on the streets of YYC - Zilford's Fried Chicken! Coming off an extremely taxing on call weekend, I knew that nothing would make me feel better that a spicy chicken sammie and some crack (yeah, you read that right) and ZFC did not fail me! I will be doing a full, in-depth My Calgary blog post highlighting the incredibly inspirational story of Parker and his goal of bringing some real life, finger licking, actually spicy (African mama's kitchen approved) fried chicken to YYC, so I won't go into too much detail here - but I did want to make sure you all know where to hit up when in need of some delicious comfort food!

To track where ZFC is in the city, make sure to follow them on Insta @ZilfordsFriedChicken & favourite Zilford's Fried Chicken on the Street Food Calgary App!

Also, sidenote - can we please take in the pastel goodness of that ZFC tee?! Cried tears of pure spring, pastel joy when I saw them and am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to cop one (saves nickels and dimes). 

After getting the important things done (read: ordering ZFC's spicy chicken sammie, mac n cheese and some crack), I looked around and realized that there were some dope looks in the crowd! I honestly didn't come to the Spring Frenzy this year as a blogger in any capacity, but my inner fashionista started to rise up real quick. I was just going to sit back and enjoy all the spring inspo I was receiving, but came to the conclusion that I had to showcase all of it in some capacity. And so, this post was born!

I love how fashion is so personal and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. From a side-tied blush blazer (I am still dreaming of it) to ripped denim and bold chokers to kicks and mules, YYC did not come to play. I basically thrive in awkward situations, so going up and chatting with complete strangers made my day. It was so great seeing their reactions go from "who df is this chick?" to "really? my look" to "let me strike a pose real quick". I loved chatting with each person and getting a sense of who they are purely through their choice of clothing and accessories. Stepping behind the camera allowed me to help bring their personalities to life and made me appreciate how you can see into someone's soul through a lens (that line was as cheesy as ZFC's mac n cheese but its the truth)! I met some incredible people (including some local YYC talent), got to connect with some of my followers (it was SO awesome to meet you all - y'all made my heart grow) and get so much inspo for this season (aka that mustard coat that I will search for until I find it in plus size). 

I plan on turning the lens on you, YYC so look out for me in upcoming events and come chat with me about your outfit and style!

P.S. - if you see anyone you know in any of these pics, please tell them to send me an email or slide into my DMs and I would be more than happy to share these images with them!

Clothing Bar Boutique

Calgary is a city that is quickly on the rise, with a wealth of talented and innovative minds. It is a place where a great idea, paired with dedication and hard work, can flourish in a wide variety of niches. The city continues to surprise me with its abundance of forward thinking and exceptionally driven locals who never fail to acknowledge their roots. Entrepreneurs and their businesses are single-handedly moulding Calgary's landscape, providing depth and spark to our local community. Katie from Clothing Bar Boutique is no exception!

The Clothing Bar Boutique provides a unique shopping experience for many here in Calgary. It stands aside from most consignment stores as a result of its strong ties to the community it is located in. Alongside a treasure trove of consignment finds, the boutique provides a platform for local artisans and talent, showcasing locally sourced items as well. Katie, the creative mind and owner of the Clothing Bar Boutique, has an unrivaled sense of pride for the city of Calgary. Her genuine excitement about the potential of this city and constant drive to provide a shopping experience reflective of this, allows her boutique to be an important piece of the Calgary culture.

I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Katie and she shared some of her entrepreneurial tips and tricks, as well as her favourite fashion trends this season! Read on for more!

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a small business owner in Calgary-and born and raised here! I love hanging at local coffee shops, cuddling my little Chihuahua, and spending nights working on my business, or sipping wine. Not much more to know about me!

2. What made you decide to start the Clothing Bar Boutique?

I always knew I was meant to be my own boss, so at a young age I made tons of scenarios and mini “business plans” in my mind about how I would make it happen. The Clothing Bar was one of those ideas that actually stuck.

3. As an entrepreneur, what advice would you give to anyone looking to start a business?

Find a support system. No entrepreneur can get through it without a solid base of people around them. Like, a seriously solid base. Whether it be 1 person or 10, each person you include in the circle should have skills that you lack, and opinions that you might not want to hear, but need to. Also, entrepreneurs have a tendency to be inside their own heads, so asking for help, and listening to other people is a must!

4. What is your favourite fall/winter trend this season?

Grey plaid, and velvet! Either together or not. As for a more “off the runway” trend, I am a huge fan of sneakers and crew neck sweaters this year!

5. How does the Clothing Bar Boutique add to and influence the community you are a part of?

I think the entire small business industry in Calgary has grown immensely in the past 5 years. It has been so important for The Clothing Bar to be as involved in that community as possible, and collaborations have been key. Anytime we have the chance to cross promote with other local businesses we do, and love carrying local products in the store! We also host an annual fashion show in support of local charities, and involve such amazing talent to showcase them through the night. Plus, all our unused clothing in the shop, is directly donated to Women in Need Society.

6. Where do you hope to see the Clothing Bar Boutique in a year? 3 years?

Hopefully in a bigger location, with a few employees! There are a few other ideas in the works, but it would ruining the surprise if I say!

7. What is the one piece of clothing in your closet that you can't live without?

My go to black t-shirt. I probably wear it way too often, but hey, it can be interchangeable to any look, and accessorized so easily! Also, can’t go anywhere without a massively oversized purse.

8. Why should fashion and style consumers look into consignment stores as an alternative to mainstream shopping?

The fast fashion industry is so massive, and the waste that goes along with it is JUST as massive. Why let perfectly good clothing go to waste? Why not make money off your un loved pieces? Why not save hundreds of $$ on stylish like new clothes? Consignment shopping has become so trendy these days and the reasons to jump on board are endless.

9. How can local Calgarian consignment lovers get join the movement?

Just walk right in, give us a call, or start by checking out our website. We have made our process so simple, and we truly hope our consignors and customers feel like they are a part of a community closet. 

Out and About

I took a stroll around my neighbourhood in downtown Calgary with my camera and captured some of the things that make it so unique. This little stroll made me realize how much I love telling stories through photography. I will for sure continue doing more of  these mini photography series!

Enjoy!

Toni Plus The Core

I had the wonderful pleasure of attending the Toni Plus grand opening at The Core in downtown Calgary this past weekend. I was so excited to welcome and, most importantly, celebrate the addition of a plus size retailer in a city where plus size fashion needs more cultivating. The fashion scene in Calgary is new and dynamic; however, little attention is being paid to plus size consumers. This has plagued me since moving here from the extremely diverse fashion world of Toronto and I have been working really hard to show Calgary that plus size women have style too. With the addition of Toni Plus to the Core, plus size fashion is now perfectly positioned to begin influencing the voice of fashion here within the city. 

One of the first things that struck me about this store was the level of luxury that was felt almost immediately. From the gold and brass accents to the crown molding and intricately laid tile floors, this store brings a level of elegance to the plus size shopping experience. This is really important because as a plus size women, the shopping experience can quickly become overwhelming. We often times find ourselves sifting through racks of the same kinds of cookie cutter clothing in a dimly lit back corner labeled “Special Sizes”. Toni Plus brings our needs to the forefront, curating unique collections and fostering a positive shopping experience.

Toni Plus’ retail philosophy circulates around providing the most personal shopping experience. With new stock arriving weekly and all merchandise available displayed at the front of the store, you are getting a unique boutique-like shopping experience for high end clothing options right in the heart of downtown. Without even touching the pieces, I could immediately tell that they were great quality and made to stay in your closet through many season. I would define the pieces offered by Toni Plus as luxury plus size clothing, falling into the realm of Hey Gorgeous NY and Universal Standard without the big department store feel. 

One of the coolest parts of this new store is an area that is often taken for granted – the change rooms. As a plus sized woman, Lord knows the amount of lack luster change rooms that have nearly brought my to tears. I have walked into that were not big enough for me to even twirl around in, change rooms with weak lighting and change rooms with mirrors half the size of my thighs. The change rooms at this Toni Plus location cater to the plus size woman, providing spacious and beautifully lit spaces were one can truly appreciate the piece you are shopping for. It is actually quite amazing how much more confident you feel when you are able to move around comfortably when trying on piece. As a huge proponent of fabric movement, being able to walk comfortably within the change rooms in front of a fall length mirror allows me the luxury of seeing how a piece will flow and how it will move with me, all in the privacy of beautiful change rooms.

I’d like to extend the warmest thank yous to the ladies at Toni Plus The Core. Thank you for inviting me into our beautiful store and for shinning a light on plus size fashion here in the city. If you want to treat yourself to something nice or want a blazer to slay an interview in, this is the store for you!

Hello Lovely

Calgary really is a hidden gem, a city filled with talent and social innovation. I am constantly in awe of the amazing people I have the pleasure to cross paths with, such as Sarah of Modern Photography. One of my girls (thanks Samantha!) tagged me in an Instagram post on Sarah's Hello Lovely Instagram page. I was pleasantly surprised to see the mission that Hello Lovely was on and the amount of body positivity it would bring to the city. I knew I had to be a part of it and shooting with Sarah was the first step! The images turned out amazingly and meeting the creative mind behind Hello Lovely was nothing short of inspiring.

Here is a little blurb from Sarah sharing a bit more about herself and her Hello Lovely project: 

"I’m a professional photographer living in Calgary on a mission to photograph my own style and those of other women in the plus size community. Real women, real and attainable fashion, Canadian based. I have found that plus size retailers still use “aspirational” models in the 10-12 size range even though their customer base is primarily 20+. I want to show that fashion, self love and body positivity is for everyone. Love yourself and amazing things happen. My immediate goal is to photograph 100 plus size women by 2017."

The one thing that really warms my heart are the comments below the images on Hello Lovely's Instagram page and the feedback this project has been gathering. These comments are filled with women thanking Sarah for making them feel beautiful in their own skin and for making them feel more beautiful than they have felt in years. This is the important and priceless work that Hello Lovely is doing in the community. Providing a safe place for women of different shapes and sizes to celebrate their bodies and feel good despite societal and fashion rules that work to silent us. I am so happy to welcome Hello Lovely to Calgary and I am excited to see the body positivity it brings to  city that is in serious need of it!

Even Odds Collective

Calgary is a city that is quickly on the rise, with a wealth of talented and innovative minds. It is a place where a great idea, paired with dedication and hard work, can flourish in a wide variety of niches. The city continues to surprise me with its abundance of forward thinking and exceptionally driven locals who never fail to acknowledge their roots. Entrepreneurs and their businesses are single-handedly moulding Calgary's landscape, providing depth and spark to our local community. 

Even Odds Collective ranks among the top businesses who are doing just that.

Even Odds Collective is a company that understands the need for self-expression and produces quality headwear and apparel that helps it’s customers do so. Designed right here in Calgary, Even Odds Collective encompasses what #MyCalgary stands for - forward thinking, passionate individuals who are committed to seeing this city develop and grow.With a mantra of "All in. All the Time." this local company believes in getting back what you put in, delivering on the promise of working to enhance the development of passionate people in and around our beautiful city.   

 I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and have an intimate conversation with the creative minds behind Calgary's most upcoming apparel brand – Even Odds Collective. It was such a pleasure to not only meet Dave Rutherford and Hillary Beney, but also to share in their collective passion when it comes to their business. They were gracious enough to welcome me into their creative space and share their personal journey with me.

What ignited the spark in you to start Even Odds Collective?

Dave: "It’s kind of been a long time coming. I grew up snowboarding and skateboarding for 14 years and even use to BMX in the summer. During the course of that things evolved and I quickly realized that fashion tied in with sports like these very well. I moved on and realized I didn't want the 9-5 job so I focused on building Even Odds Collective as a brand that reflected my love for these sports."

What has been the most exciting part of owning your own business?

Dave: "Probably the growth - watching the whole thing grow. It ties back to snowboarding and skateboarding where you don't want to be doing the same thing over and over again. You want to continuously be evolving and growing. That, to me, is the most important and coolest thing to see. The other one is going around the town and noticing a lot of people wearing the brand. Showing up to a concert, walking around town, going to a show and seeing people wearing the product is a really cool feeling." 

Hillary: "It's also cool seeing the product come in and seeing the final product. The brand as a whole is similar to Dave's style - everything is so clean and simple. It really resonates with our customer base."

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

Dave: "I don't have that much non work time to be honest. I currently work two jobs, so when I'm not doing something with Even Odds Collective, I am at work as a commercial electrician. In my spare time snowboarding takes up a lot of time and I do a lot of fitness related activities. In the summer we recently just went paddle boarding which I hope catches on. For the paddle boarding we went to Canmore, snowboarding is typically kept in Banff – like Lake Louise and Sunshine. We also travel so if there is some good powder or if we see a good storm we chase it to places like BC."

Where do you see yourself and Even Odds Collective in a year from now? 5 years from now?

Dave: “I'm not big on forecasting because it's super hard to predict where you actually will be. We've kept the business broad and general in order to encompass a lot of different areas. If something really picks up, I'd say we will target that. So for example, if snowboarding becomes the forward trend we will target that. If the music scene picks up on us we will target that. Obviously we are working to get our products into stores as well. Within a year we would like to have a bunch of retail spots in the city and then within 5 years we are definitely hoping to be a national brand if not an international brand. We do some dealing with the states right now but I would like to get more involved with the states and then open up our shipping internationally.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion into a business?

Dave: “Honestly, I think just go for it. Like I said, the whole brand, the whole idea, has been a long time coming. I think I sat on it for 4-5 years and in hindsight I wish I would have done it 4-5 years ago. Obviously I’m a little more experienced now, and a little bit of a better thinker than I was at 19. But with that being said, you just have to kind of jump into it. You learn your basics, you learn your foundation and a bit about the industry you are going into, and I think you just kind of go for it. The whole idea of business is a learning process - you are never going to come into it with 100% knowledge. If you just kind of jump into it, be adaptive, and learn as you go I think that's the best way to do it. It gets you started and as long as you get your foot in the door, you go from there.” 

Hillary: “And there's going to be road blocks so it’s important that you learn from them, call it a bad day and just keep going. We’ve had a few things were it's been a bit of a setback but you just look at them as learning experiences for your future.

Dave:” I don't think you'd classify anything as a failure. Its corny, but it really is more of a learning experience.”

How do you define your Calgary?

Dave: “It's really a community. Growing up in Ontario you are about an hour from Toronto so when I came out here I had the idea it would be a big city as well. But it’s really much smaller than you think. Everyone knows everyone and there are a lot of tight knit circles that provide a huge amount of support. I think it’s a good community for growth.”

Hillary: “Calgary is very entrepreneurial and a very young city. A lot of people we have hooked up with so far are so young, around 20-24, and have so many ideas and so much creativity. There is a lot of artistry in the city which is inspiring for us to because it keeps you motivated. It’s cool to see how very connected everything is.”

How do you stay motivated?

Dave: “Day to day? It’s tough. My day typically consists of getting up at 5:30AM, and then I head to work as a commercial electrician for about 8 hours. I get home around 3-4PM and plug away from there. Basically I think there are a lot of different factors that motivate me. Friends and family are a huge one. Hillary, my girlfriend, has helped me a lot more than I can even think of. As well, when you see different things, and look at different brands you envision the growth of your own brand. Certain factors will push me on a certain day so it’s not one specific thing. Everyone has peaks and valleys when it comes to motivation so not one specific thing can really get you to your endpoint, but as long as you can draw from these different factors, it all evens out. Sometimes I’ll think to myself okay I've been slacking today and that forces me to look at something to motivate me more. Sometimes all it takes is me looking at Hillary while she’s working away and that gets me through it. So basically I think it's a combination of different factors and a lot of coffee that gets me through.”

Hillary: “It's also seeing how people react to the product as well. Like even when we go out and see people wearing it too, it pushes you to keep on going. It's like oh my goodness, I don't even know this person and they are repping it. There is so much positive feedback. I've done a lot of the sales so I've heard a lot of what the customers have to say and I've tried to motivate Dave by relaying this information to him and showing him that people are dedicated to the product. I have people who buy everything in the catalogue, not just one product! That's motivating enough, a little bit on my end too because it shows that people really connect with the brand.”

How do you build a successful customer base here in Calgary?

Dave: “Most important thing for us is putting out a quality product. If we aren't putting out a quality product we can't build a customer base. We are also creating a brand and family. People are more geared to a brand that is really involved in the city, doing positive things within the city. So our first event we did was the Lilac fest this summer. What we did in that was we actually donated a portion of our events to the Chill Foundation, which gets kids out on the hill and teaches them how to snowboard. A big thing for us is the community based approach. Donating to charities, getting involved with a bunch of different shops in the city, a bunch of different events in the city all works towards getting the community involved in our brand. Building this sense of community first is the most important step before we begin to branch out.”

Hillary: “We have a team that we picked out too. We have a couple of hip-hop dancers, we have skaters, we have skiers and the majority of them are in Calgary and we invite all of their friends to use their promo code too. So it’s like building a community. We’ve gotten pretty close to them and we are building a family. We operate primarily on word of mouth and we always encourage participation of family members and friends of our team.” 

Dave: “The big thing about that is that we are getting exposure for them. It is exposure for us in a sense because they are pretty talented individuals, but we want to get them out there. Calgary isn't the biggest demographic for the music, snowboarding, skateboarding scene so we haven't been internationally recognized as a city. But I think that that's going to gradually start changing and start to pick up. The biggest hubs are Vancouver and Toronto right now but the way Calgary is developing quickly. The music scene we have just recently gotten involved in is really picking up, COP is huge for snowboarding and skiing - so getting them out there and getting exposure for them is really important to us.”

Who or what is your greatest inspiration so far?

Dave: “I don't really have a specific answer. I'd say there are a lot of different ones. Both my parents have been a huge one. My dad started his own business and it has always been a dream of mine to follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps. In terms of other motivation, I’d say our inspiration. I look at the core companies and see where they started from and how they've grown. It’s really those rag-to-riches stories that motivate me, the stories about how people started by selling t-shirts on street corners and seeing how those very same t-shirts are in every department store in the nation. So that I guess is the biggest inspiration because anything can happen in my opinion.”

Hillary: “My greatest motivation is you Dave! It’s crazy to see someone so young have a degree, be a third year electrician and start his own company! It is very surreal what he's accomplished in like 10 months and he motivates me to so much. I doubt I would be where I am today if it wasn't for his influence.”

If you were stranded on an island, and could only bring three items, what would they be?

Dave: “Wow that’s a pretty tough one! If I could maybe lump friends into one category that would be pretty cool. If I could get my cell phone with some sort of solar charger, I would have to go with that. And then, I guess if there were mountains, maybe a board or something to keep fit and active for sure. I would say snowboarding but on an island I'm not sure if that would be possible but definitely something to keep me active would be on that list.” 

If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?

Dave: “I'd be too embarrassed to sing in the first place. See my taste in music rotates too. One month I’ll be super into Two Chains, then it'll switch to Wu-Tang, and then back to heavy metal. Right now I think it would have to be anything by Jay Z, for sure. Not only is he a musical inspiration,  but from an entrepreneurial standpoint, he is pretty huge as well. Plus if I did anything Jay Z, I wouldn’t have to sing anything on key so I would sound okay. Anything from The Blueprint for sure.” 

Hillary: “Have you ever heard of Halsey? She’s an up and comer. Anything from her new album I just scream and belt it out there with no chill at all!”

I would like to extend the hugest thank you to both Dave and Hillary for taking the time to sit and chat with me. Their passion for Even Odds Collective and for the city of Calgary is awe inspiring and something that all brands should strive to achieve. Their ability to stay true to a brand that exudes such Calgary pride is so necessary in this expanding landscape and speaks numbers to the quality of the products they produce. Their team and fan base are so refreshingly diverse, pulling form a variety of diverse backgrounds and interests. I, for one, will continue to follow the growth of this company because I saw first-hand the dedication and hard work that has already gone into it. Even Odds Collective is a local gem and one that makes me proud to be a part of our city of Calgary. 

You can check out Even Odds Collective on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and be sure to say hi to Dave and Hillary at upcoming events within the city! 

ReggaeFest

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever ReggaeFest here in Calgary. As a past resident of Toronto, Ontario and avid Caribana attendee, I was more than thrilled to find a festival in my new city that celebrated the Caribbean culture. I came into the event with pretty high expectations of Caribana-like atmospheres and I was not at all disappointed! Even on a slightly chilly, overcast afternoon, it was still impossible to overlook the genuine energy and vibrancy that came along with the festival. 

Like proud, age old Calgarians, all the attendees simply pulled out their umbrellas and extra coats that we all carry around in the back seat of our cars (due to the fact that Calgary weather can sometimes walk the thin line between temperamental and puzzling) and enjoyed the festivities nonetheless. I was transported straight to the islands, greeted warmly be all around me and felt a sense of community as we all jived together to the sweet performances that were part of the festival’s line up.

Despite having to throw emergency tarps on their kiosks, retailers opened their doors wide and greeted eager collectors and cultural enthusiasts alike. It was amazing to see the different representation of this vibrant culture and share in conversations with members of the community. These conversations were at the heart of my experience and is the reason why I think ths festival should be on every Calgarian’s summer to do list. Being a part of the growing community was soul warming to see as the festival progressed and, of course, it didn’t hurt that I go to do a little shopping as well!

The performers amped up the energy at the event by bring sounds of the islands to the stage. The headliners for the festival were amazing and played a wide varity of Reggae music. Hearing musicisians from across Canada and the globe come together to celebrate Reggae was awe inspiring and brought some sunshine into the overcast day. The energy was infectious and it took no time at all for everyone in attendance to get up on their feet and bounce along to the tunes. The weather might have been in the single digits but we all had a little sweat on our brow from all the jumping and singing along during the performances.   

Here is Gisto, one of the first performers of the afternoon, getting the crowd ready for a Reggae filled day

My first experience at Calgary's ReggaeFest was more than I could have asked for. Despite the less than favourable weather, the event ran without a hitch. The volunteers were knowledgeable, the vendors were welcoming, the performers were energetic and the environment was nothing short of vibrant. I enjoyed being able to be a part of an event that tapped into my memories but also allowed me the space to create new ones. It was amazing to get a chance to speak with attendees who had been coming to ReggaeFest for years, and to hear how important this outward representation of culture was so critical to the community we live in. 

There is no doubt that I will be attending this festival again next year, and I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of such an enriching experience!  

Crafted Artisan Truck

It is no secret that the Food Truck scene in Calgary is bigger and better than ever. There is such a diverse line up of trucks to choose from, touching on cultures both far and wide. They have become a regular sight on Calgary streets, bringing out large crowds at local events as well as during lunch breaks downtown. The notion of food on wheels, along with the novelty, has become an increasingly popular part of the Calgary scene; however, a new type of truck has been adopted into the scene and it's changing the way we Calgarians see trucks.

The Crafted Artisan Truck is the unique brainchild of Pamela Morales. Pam took a hobby that she was truly passionate about and turned it into a creative, boundary pushing business that continues to rock the scene. The Crafted Artisan Truck, a pioneer of the new wave of shops-on-wheels hitting the streets of Calgary, provides a wide selection of hand made goods for us shop-a-holics to indulge in. The best part? All hand made goods on the Crafted Truck are local, providing a city-wide platform for Canadian artists and creators to showcase their pieces of work. Crafted Truck goes beyond being a store, providing one of a kind private shopping experiences for events as well as workshops where local Calgarians can learn creative techniques from local artisans.    

I had the pleasure of visiting Pam at her truck and, I must say, it was a uniquely amazing experience. I was accustomed to seeing food trucks from the outside and interacting with them through their serving windows. Being invited into the truck provided me with a different view of trucks in general, opening my eyes to how the space could be utilized. Crafted Truck's wide array of artisan products caters to a wide audience, providing products ranging from handmade jewelry to beautiful material dream catchers. The interior was warm and welcoming, reminding me of an artisan boutique on wheels. Pam was gracious enough to speak a little about her personal journey and share how she defines her Calgary.   

What ignited the spark in you to start the Crafted Truck, a relatively new idea here in Calgary?

For years I’ve been dreaming of having my own business but the cost of having a brick and mortar shop in Calgary has been too prohibitive.  I was inspired by the overwhelming success of the food truck industry, the growing trend of pop-up shops and my love of everything handmade.  Retail trucks are not just a new business, they’re a new way to do business.  Being mobile we’re not just keeping our rent down, we’re also able to respond directly to our customers, wherever they are.

Calgary and North American has been seeing a lot of food trucks and for me it seemed like a natural kind of progression to move into mobile retailing.  Having a textile arts background and always trying out new crafts, the artisan truck just made sense to me.

My goal was to find a way to showcase the creativity and craftsmanship of local artisans and makers and deliver it in a really unique way.

What has been the most exciting part of owning your own business?

Starting a new business with no formal training has been exciting for me because I love to learn new things.  This was and continues to be a steep learning curve because of all the areas I’m responsible for but the more I learn the easier and more streamlined the process gets. 

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?

Right now my non-work time is extremely limited.  When I do make myself take some time off to recharge, I spend my time with my daughters and then like to immerse myself in movies in the evening once they’ve gone to bed.  My job can be physically demanding at times and they are long days so just relaxing in front of the TV is all I have the energy for these days!

Where do you see yourself and the Crafted truck in a year from now? 5 years from now?

I’m in no rush to expand too quickly, if at all.  I’m happy with where things are at and don’t see things changing very much from this year to the next.  I’ll be changing up the products I carry on the truck from time to time and will continue to host a variety of workshops year-round according to what customers want.  I also hope to be able to collaborate with other like-minded small businesses in one way or another.  Over the long-term, I hope to be able to find a permanent space where I can offer both the handmade goods and workshops under one roof. 

How do you define your Calgary?

Calgary is a vibrant, modern yet casual city rich in culture and creativity. The support, collaborative efforts of small businesses and healthy competition in our city make Calgary an engaging and rich community that I’m proud to live in.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their hobby and passion into a business?

Make sure you LOVE your hobby because you’ll be living it morning, noon and night!

How do you stay motivated?

Seeing the level of interest and excitement that customers have in discovering the diversity of products that local artisans create keeps me motivated.   

How do you build a successful customer base here in Calgary?

Always keeping things fresh, new and ever-changing will keep bringing customers back again and again.  Listening to the suggestions made by customers and following through with them also goes a long way to maintaining their loyalty.

If you haven't already done so, I would highly recommend visiting Pam and the Crafted Artisan Truck. Pam and her innovative new truck are truly changing the way we see trucks in the city and will continue  to pave the way for new spins on the traditional idea of food trucks. 

You can visit the Crafted Artisan Truck at the YYC Food Truck Summer Frenzy, taking place this weekend, June 26th - 28th, at Fifth Street Square! You can also keep track of where the Crafted Truck will be by keeping an eye on the schedule found here! 

Añejo Restaurant

The #MyCalgary premier post is finally live! I had the amazing opportunity to partner with Añejo Restaurant, a staple in the Calgary foodie scene and home to the city's best margarita. Open for three years this September, Añejo continues to pull in large crowds on a daily basis due to its authentic Mexican inspired cuisine, vibrant environment and a tequila collection that rivals most. With 200+ different types of tequila and a menu filled to the brim with bold, vibrant dishes that transports you to the sunny shores of Mexico, Añejo has quickly become known as the face of 4th street. 

It is for these reasons, and more, that I chose Añejo to be the face of #MyCalgary's first post. The atmosphere created within its walls is one that truly emanates Calgary's welcoming spirit. The entire staff go over and beyond to ensure that every experience is a unique one, and the diverse crowds that flock to its doors speaks volumes to the experience Añejo has come to be known for. I have put together a multifaceted post that touches on Añejo's menu in the Dish on the Food portion, sheds light on the brain behind the culinary wonders through an interview in the Chat with the Chef and discusses the overall feel of the restaurant in the Complete Package. 

My goal by the end of this post is to make you fall in love with this uniquely authentic restaurant the same way I did when I first walked through Añejo's doors.

The Dish on the Food

Añejo's menu is a culinary masterpeice. It takes aspects that are unique to Mexican cuisine and puts an ingenious spin on them, creating favourable and adventurous dishes. Browsing through the menu, it is easy to appreciate the thought and culinary prowess that went into creating it. Each dish is more unique than the last, taking you on a mouthwatering culinary journey. Chef Matt Davidson, Chef de Cuisine at Añejo, was gracious enough to prepare three meals for me to try out. Let's just say I left the restaurant as one happy camper! 

Dish 1: Guacamole

Guacamole, to me, is a signature Mexican dish. It is one that brings back so many memories of late night BBQs with friends back in my undergrad years. It is the prototypical Mexican dish and one that readily comes to mind when discussing this cuisine. I, like many others, have tried numerous variations of this Mexican staple, but this one is by far the best one I've had to date.My favourite part of this dish is the fact that it is made table side! You literally see the fresh ingredients magically combined to form the freshest guacamole ever. Comprised of cilantro, jalapeños, onions, tomatoes and limes alongside the main player, avocado, and served with a side of tortilla chips, this dish alone will keep you coming back for more. I really appreciate the fact that this dish was kept simple, relying on the fresh ingredients to do the work. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it is the perfect dish to share with your table (or keep to yourself because it's just that good!).   

Dish 2: Tuna Pokè

Yellow fin tuna, soy sauce, chilli and guacamole - these are the ingredients that make up this unique dish. Originally a Hawaiian dish, Chef Matt transforms it, adding a Mexican flare. I kid you not, I could live the rest of my life eating this dish alone. There are so many levels to this dish, with the saltiness of the soy sauce combining perfectly with the spice of the chilli and the authentic freshness of the guacamole. Top it off with some fresh lime juice and you have a flavour packed and robust dish that you really won't want to share with anyone! 

Dish 3: Añejo Mole Chicken

I personally have never had Mole; however, I have watched my fair share of Food Network specials to know that this dish is as authentically Mexican as it comes. Served over chicken, carrots and Mexican rice, this rich, flavourful sauce makes this dish second to none. It is so jam packed with flavour that every bite introduces a new taste to explore. I found my self taking my time while eating this dish as it deserved to be enjoyed one bite at a time. Chef Matt's skill truly comes out in this dish as it takes culinary prowess to create a dish that people continuously order based on a meat, such as chicken, that people eat every day. I comment the chef in a big way for this dish and I recommend you try this the next time you visit Añejo!

A Chat with the Chef

I had the opportunity to sit with Chef Matt Davidson, Chef de Cuisine at Añejo Restaurant, and discuss some of his culinary influences as well as get to know him a little better. His passion for the restaurant and the food that he serves to Añejo's customers really came through during the interview, and his warm, welcoming personality perfectly summed up the feel of the restaurant he is so proud of. Here are some of the answers he gave during our interview so you too can get to know him a little better:

Q. When did you first know that you wanted to be a chef?

A. I would have to say it’s when I got my first job as a dishwasher at Chili’s in Southcentre Mall here in Calgary. I thought it was really cool watching all the line cooks in line. I had massive amounts of respect for them in their fancy chef coats making so much food so fast. I instantly fell in love with the atmosphere of the kitchen so I decided that was what I wanted to do!

Q. What is your all-time most memorable meal?

A. I’d say it was at a small restaurant on a beach in Mexico and I had a margarita the size of my head in one hand and the server just kind of dropped this huge platter of seafood down in front of us. Right there it clicked for me that there was more to cooking than the fancy French stuff I learned in school. I realized that there is a whole world of different cultures and cuisines that I could learn. 

Q. What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen and why?

A. This one was hard! I would say agave nectar and lime juice because balancing the acidity in food is a really big part of Mexican cuisine and it is something that I’ve had to learn to adapt to over the past three years. Dried chili, which is something I would never have used before I started working at Añejo, where as now, I couldn’t imagine living without them.  And then finally, salt because any chef who doesn’t have that as one of their top four isn’t worth their salt!

Q. If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you make?

A. Marie-Antoine Careme. He is the forefather of French cuisine and he pretty much shaped the way French cuisine is viewed today. So if I could I would make the most complicated French meal I could possibly think of. To have the chance to sit down and talk to somebody from way back then about how things have changed and what’s new would be an interesting experience. 

Q. Who is your biggest supporter?

A. I would say my boyfriend. I’m lucky to be with someone who understands that I will never be at a family function and I will never do anything Friday and Saturday night except be here at the restaurant. He’s always there when I need someone to talk something through with or form an idea and he is willing to tell me that some of my ideas are really stupid. 

Q. Tell me 3 things that you consider to be your cooking strengths.

A. I would say organization because it’s a very important factor if you’re trying to run a line or manage a team of people. You have to maintain organization in all aspects of the kitchen. The ability to keep calm in any situation. Kitchens can get very chaotic and sometimes tempers run high and you have hot stuff flying everywhere, so it’s really important to keep a level head the entire way through. And willingness to learn from absolutely anybody. Even if I hire a dishwasher, if they have a better way of doing something, I take that opportunity to learn from them. 

Q. What is the one condiment you cannot live without?

A. Sriracha! I put sriracha on absolutely everything. We don’t even use it in any recipes here at Añejo, but I keep a case in the back just so we can all put it on the food that we eat.

Next time you're at Añejo Restaurant, feel free to say hi to Chef Matt and ask him if he finished that margarita the size of his head!

The Complete Package

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Añejo Restaurant. The feel of the restaurant is laid back, fun and colourful and the staff is absolutely amazing. The architecture alone is breath taking, with a vaulted skylight that brings in natural light and fills the space with warmth. Añejo managed to keep the original architecture of the landmark 4th Street Rose building, including a stunning brick wall and natural, wooden accents. The dark walls create an intimate space where good food and good times are always in abundance.  

Añejo has quickly become one of my favourite spots in town. I recommend it to everyone I meet not only because of the stellar food and service, but because of the inviting environment. If you are ever at Añejo during Halfy-Hour, between 3-5PM when all margaritas, tequilas and Mexican beers are half priced, be sure to come on over and say hi! Maybe I'll share some of my guacamole with you! 

An Introduction

Calgary, Alberta - the city known mainly for its rocking cowboy stampede festivities and beautiful, scenic views. To me, however, Calgary is so much more than that. It is a vibrant city that continues to surprise me every day. Steeped in arts and culture, and bound by an unrivalled sense of communal pride, Calgary is a city that is uniquely itself in the best way possible. In less than a year of living in this beautiful city, I have discovered the most amazing places and experienced an array of exquisite things. I know I’ve only scratched the surface with regards to what this beautiful city holds, and it has become my task to share my journey of discovery with you through #MyCalgary.

#MyCalgary is a new branch of my blog that will focus on showcasing this amazing city through the eyes of its inhabitants. It is my way to give back to a city that has already influenced me in such positive ways in so little time. I want to explore Calgary, truly finding its heartbeat, and share my experiences on this platform. #MyCalgary will be comprised of interviews with business owners, restaurant chefs and entrepreneurs who are currently shaping Calgary's landscape, as well as reviews of events that I attend in the city. 

The ultimate goal of #MyCalgary is to create a platform through which our Calgary can be showcased. I want locals to be proud of the city we live in, using #MyCalgary to show their own unique experiences within the city. I want this to evolve into a network, connecting likeminded Calgarians and cultivating a shared experience within the city. I see Calgary’s true potential and I want to share this vision through my blog.

Stay tuned for the first instalment of #MyCalgary where I partner up with Añejo restaurant, located on 4th street. I will be chatting with the head chef, Chef Matt, about his inspirations, as well as reviewing some of the dishes he made for me!