From executive chefs and restauranteurs to sommeliers, here are 10 Catch alumni who are continuously making waves on Calgary’s culinary scene
“The technical proficiency of the kitchen ranges from excellent to superb and the overall experience is rounding into form. Catch is like a talented rookie with enough initial brilliance to indicate that superstardom is not far off.” – John Gilchrist, January 2003, on Catch Restaurant and Oyster Bar after opening in late 2002.
Looking back now, this quote from our city’s food critic in the early 2000s is surprisingly accurate. Back then, Catch was a ground-breaking restaurant concept for a land-locked city. Seafood, front and centre, prepared with a refinement all its own that set itself apart from the steak-driven establishments that ruled the scene. With Michael Noble fresh off his appearance on Iron Chef (the original series, not the tacky American variation) and national recognition, Calgary was all abuzz, watching to see how the chef and the restaurant would fair this far from sea.
The most rewarding thing for a mentor in any field is seeing your pupils succeed. Though Michael Noble only headed up the kitchen here for the first 3½ years of operation before pursuing his other successful ventures, he worked closely with a group of young chefs who at that time were not much more than eager twenty-somethings. An eclectic group of individuals, just looking for an opportunity to showcase their skills and better themselves in hopes of climbing the kitchen ladder to a successful life-long career.
By now, hundreds of employees (both back of house and front) have come and gone from this popular restaurant on Stephen Avenue. Clearly a breeding ground (in one case literally!) for talent in the city’s culinary scene, there is no doubt that Catch is an amazing example of chef mentoring done right.
Though the faces in the dining room and behind the line have changed and, like most restaurants, will continue to do so, Catch still remains as one of Calgary’s top restaurants almost 12 years later. With an ever-growing staff legacy, it will be very interesting to see what another decade or so will bring for the current crop who are just getting a taste of what it’s like to work in a top notch establishment in the food industry.
From executive chefs and restaurateurs to sommeliers and one very charming Top Chef Canada contender, here are ten Catch alumni whose stars have shone brighter and brighter since their time at the seafood establishment.
Position: Executive Chef
Current position: Chef/Owner, Notable and The Nash (opening fall, 2014)
How did you lead the kitchen when the restaurant opened? “I was extremely driven, I honestly believed that perfection was possible and I was in that never-ending search for it. This made me a bit of a mother-f**!**r I guess especially when my rather pronounced ego and absolute fear of failure compounded that ~ I wore the tall hat so became known as “Shark” because I’d flow through the kitchens as if I had a shark fin going on. True story. All that being said, I had a lot of respect for everyone who was part of the team and still do to this day.”
Positions: Entremetier, saucier, dining room chef
Current position: Executive Chef, Hotel Arts group
Fondest memory of your time at the restaurant? “We would be cranking the tunes every Saturday morning in the dining room at Catch while we did our weekly scrub down of the kitchen, and Garth Brown – who was at the time the general manager of The Siding Café then – delivered us breakfast and coffee! But, the best thing to come out of Catch for me was meeting my wonderful wife, Wanda!”
Positions: Chef de partie, first cook, banquets kitchen, pastry, dining room.
Current position: Executive Chef, The Nash (opening fall, 2014)
Most memorable moment from your time at Catch? “This moment actually happened for me before Catch even opened. I remember standing inside what is now the Oyster Bar space with Chef Noble and looking at the blank canvas that the four bare walls and open concrete space were, and being so excited to be a part of what proved to be a magical place. Not many people got the opportunity to see the project all the way through like I did.”
Positions: Tournant, entremetier, saucier, sous chef
Current Position: Owner, Nicole Gourmet Catering
What was a young Chef Nicole Gomes like? “I was fiery! Bossy and determined. Loved my job and still do! Loved line cooking and all the stresses, yelling and pressure of a loaded service…I miss it terribly. I have definitely calmed down over the years. If you want some really good stories about me, ask Duncan!”
(Photo courtesy Phil Crozier)
Positions: garde manger, entremetier, saucier, oyster bar chef
Current position: Executive Chef, Winsport
What would the kitchen get up to when service was done for the night? “I would say 3 words could sum it up: “U and Me” – best late night Chinese! We worked hard and played hard! I loved my cooking family and they will always be family to me.”
Positions: Busser, waiter, event manager
Current position: General manager, Wurst
What did you learn about a career in the culinary world while working at Catch? “I was fairly naive about the industry coming out of SAIT but was ripe for learning and was trained by some of the best who took me under their wing for everything including wine tasting, fine dining service & food knowledge. I was lucky to be around so many talented and hard working people at such a special time in the Calgary restaurant scene.”
Positions: Oyster bar saucier, oyster bar chef, dining room chef, executive chef
Current position: Chef instructor, SAIT Culinary Program
Who had the biggest effect onyour career as a chef? “Chef Michael Noble. He is the reason I moved to Calgary from Vancouver. He took me on as a cook when I arrived in Canada with very little English skills back in 1999 in Vancouver at Diva At The Met. Since then he has given me the opportunity to grow, and taught me so much of what I know now about cooking. It was very sad that I could only work under him for 5 years, but it was an amazing experience. If I didn’t meet Michael Noble, my life would be totally different.”
Postions: Oyster bar garde manger, oyster bar saucier, dining room tournant, entremetier, saucier
Current position: Executive Chef, Notable
Who inspired you the most in the kitchen? “After Michael Noble left Catch in 2005, I looked up to Nicole Gomes the most. I loved her cooking style, her “get shit done” approach, her wealth of knowledge and, quite frankly, just who she is as a person!”
Positions: garde manger, entremetier, saucier, sous chef, oyster bar chef, restaurant chef and executive chef
Current position: Executive Chef, Catch Restaurant and Oyster Bar
Most satisfying thing about running the kitchen at Catch? “I think that it would be whenever I see someone leave the restaurant and take their next step towards having an incredible career…For myself, the best memories will always involve the relationships that I have made working here with incredible young cooks, dishwashers that are like family, and friends that I will keep for a lifetime.”
Positions: Server, supervisor, manager, assistant general manager, general manager.
Current position: Wine expert
A fellow Catch alumnus who’s had the most success in your eyes? “I would say Duncan Ly. However, I never really had the chance to work with him. I think who will have the most success post-career with the restaurant will be the current executive chef, Kyle Groves. I know there will be big things happening for him in his future and I wish him all the best.”
Photos by Ingrid Kuenzel