Q. Can you talk a bit about your journey to get to this point? Working together, buying Tapas in a pandemic, turning it around, and bringing it to this rebrand?
A. We started together working at another restaurant. Sauvage was a name we talked about back then, thinking “that would be cool one day!” So it was actually years in the works. When we took over Tapas, it was in the middle of a pandemic and we knew we were going to be pummelled by everything that was happening, so we decided it was not the time to do any drastic changes. We began to slowly change things. This way, we got our customers accustomed to our adventure in food as we slowly turned the restaurant into what we really wanted to do, which was using things you can find outside and cook with that. We like to focus on finding different ways of doing things with the items we have around us. We’re pretty different from anyone else.
We understand that Tapas has its mark in Canmore’s history as a place that was always amazing and we’re just building on that. We have more of a focus on local and sustainable because we care a lot about the environment, and we don’t believe bringing in ingredients from overseas is sustainable.
Q. Can you talk about your team, and the women-led vision of this restaurant?
A. Renee is a very talented individual. As a chef, I believe it’s my duty to coax the creativity out of my team instead of dictate exactly what I want. We’ll build on ideas together. We have a symbiotic vision of what we want. She’s complementary to me in terms of what we prepare and how we prepare it. We also have Katie on our team, who’s another strong and talented woman. She’s our apprentice, and she really helps to push the envelope with us.
The women led advantage means we can just go into work and focus on the task at hand. We support each other instead of competing, which is really important.
Q. Can you talk about the different food experiences being offered? From a la carte to the Tasting Menu, and the interactive stories heralding from wild adventures?
A. The a la carte is a way to dip your toe in the water with us. For people who aren’t familiar with what we do, it’s a good way to get to know us. The tasting menu is letting us guide you through the experience. With the shared plates style, you’ll order multiple dishes, and the tasting menu really allows us to choose what is going to complement each other and what is going to build off the last dish. We also discover things through our tasting menu. It allows us to try things out before they become staples on our a la carte.
For the interactive, we’ve done The Hunt and The Hike, so we’re going to keep rolling with that idea and make these experiences even more interactive now that we have that opportunity. With Sauvage, we have the ability to play with it, and really connect people to place with foraging and dining in a truly local experience.
Q. Can you tell me about your combined love for food and foraging, and how that plays into sustainability?
A. Instead of converting wildland into farmland, we can use the plants that are naturally available to us, and that leads to sustainability. Even the meat we use is bison and yak because they’re natural foragers, so they don’t pull the natural grasses out by the roots. They also don’t need corn feed or other additives and they require less water than cattle. Our trout are from just outside of Calgary from a little family farm.
We also have local providers including Delphine Pugniet, who’s kind of like a pirate farmer. She finds people with acreages in Cochrane who are not using all their land and she asks if she can grow veggies there. She’s brought the most beautiful vegetables I’ve ever tasted. We also work with Red Fox Fungi, a local mushroom farm. We work directly with the farmers so we can tell them exactly the products we’re looking for.
And then there’s the foraging. One day we went for a walk before service and found wild caraway and said, “This is on the menu today!” That only lasts about a week before it’s not edible anymore, but then there’s something else that comes up, and you do it all over again!
Foraging is also a good way to introduce people to the world that we live in. Just walking down the street, we’ve had guests discover the pineapple weed we served last night and they’ve never noticed it before. And now they’re seeing it everywhere. That’s so important to connect people to where we live.
Also touching on sustainability, instead of trying to find tomatoes in the middle of February, it’s about using what’s around you and preserving ingredients for the winter to set yourself up and make sure you still have things to play with. We use fermentation, pickling, candying, drying, and pretty much everything to preserve ingredients in house. We also have a house-made tea blend with wild camomile and horsetails and things like that in it. Our kombucha is made in house with things we forage as well.
Q. You’ve been a pillar of the community, how do you plan to continue that positive influence in town?
A. I believe that community engagement is the best form of marketing but having a restaurant also gives us a platform to do what we would like to help the community we live in. For example, in June, for Indigenous People’s Day, we did a dinner where we raised money and donated 100% of the profits to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and the Eagles Nest Stoney Family Shelter. That was really rewarding, and it’s the type of giving back we’d like to continue under the rebrand.
Q. What do you see in the future for Sauvage?
A. We want to make a top 10 list! In all seriousness, we want it to be the experience. We don’t have a movie theatre here, so we want Sauvage to be a place where you can experience dinner and a show at the same time with interactive stories. It would be the best way to celebrate a birthday or anniversary because it’s an experience you won’t forget!