Olivier Reynaud of Rouge Restaurant and Bistro Rouge talks about the scotch whisky he is saving for a special occasion.

Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel

As a fourth generation restaurateur, co-owner of Rouge Restaurant and Bistro Rouge, Olivier Reynaud’s future was almost predestined.

Reynaud was born and raised in Orange in Provence, France, and at grade 10 undertook two years of Kitchen College, where he learned pretty much everything about running a restaurant. After graduating, he travelled around England, Europe and Florida before returning to France for one year’s mandatory national service.

His father decided look for a place in the tax haven of Andorra, and in 1988 Raynaud opened a restaurant there with his parents, working together for ten years. Here, he met his late wife who was Scottish, and was introduced to Scotch whisky. “I knew about it, but of course having a family there I started to have a bit more of a taste for it, and I enjoyed it,” he says, “but I don’t drink it as much as I used to, mainly because it’s harder in the morning,” he adds, laughing.

Seeking business opportunities, in 1999 the Reynauds relocated to Canada, first looking at B.C. but then realising that Calgary was a better economy, with more prospects for finding a job to start with. “We came over on an entrepreneur visa, so we had two years to create or invest in an exiting business, which for us was a restaurant,” he explains. In 2001 he found the Cross House in Inglewood, and asked Paul Rogalski, whom he had met while both working at La Chaumière, if he’d be interested in opening a restaurant together. They purchased Cross House and opened Rouge in March 2001.

“It’s been a ten year overnight success,” laughs Reynaud. “We worked long hours and put in a lot of sweat equity, like restaurant owners do.” Their biggest accolade came in 2010 when Rouge ranked 60th in S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants list.

Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel

So what bottle is Reynaud saving for a special occasion?

There can’t be too many bottles of 1970 Bruichladdich around any more. Reynaud has always felt an affinity with the whisky as the small, innovative company are committed to local and artisanal practices, owning their own peat fields and water sources.

“I purchased the bottle of Scotch at the beginning of Rouge,“ Reynaud explains. “Rouge wasn’t as successful then as it is today, so I bought two bottles, one to drink and one to keep – but it didn’t go well very well when I got home with $400 of Scotch. It felt right at the time; I used to drink my share of Scotch and Bruichladdich was always one I enjoyed, so 1970 was like having a trophy.”

And when might Reynaud open the whisky?

“I’m going to keep it for a few more years,” he says. “One day will come, and I’ll say ‘that’s the time.’ I think it will just happen one night with friends and I will say ‘now is the time, it feels right and I’ll open it.’ I’m not a collector, I’ve got a few bottles of wine that I cellar and then sometimes for no reason I’ll open one up and drink it. I’m a drinker not a collector,” Reynaud adds. “I’ve seen a few people who didn’t have chance to enjoy their wine, and you have to enjoy the moment and not wait to long or it might be too late.”

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