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A Feast for Any Kind of Family

A family meal among restaurant staff is just like as it sounds: a hearty dish that is put together by the chefs on shift to be shared with the staff before the lunch or dinner rush starts. It must be quick, easy, filling, and, of course, delicious. And, just like a family favourite at your own dining table at home, these meals are often requested again and again. 


It’s not often we think about what those who are working are eating, so we asked some of our chef friends here in Alberta: what do you make for your restaurant family on shift? From soups to pasta to pizza and more, these recipes are hits with staff, and will be with your own family, too. 



As the chef of both Olea and Sensei Bar in Calgary, Richard McLarens draws on his childhood for inspiration when it comes to cooking. “My parents cooked mostly traditional Caribbean food growing up, so I was exposed to great flavours early on. There was always a homecooked meal for me and my brother.” 


It’s a one kitchen, two dining rooms situation where Chef Rich works, but that just means twice as many amazing dishes to choose from. “Olea’s Beet Salad is my favourite,” he says, “but on the Sensei side it’s our Gochugaru Ginger Chicken.” 


Keeping that spicy warm feeling going, Chef Rich shares his recipe for an oft-asked staff meal, Chipotle Cheddar Pasta. “I made this pasta for myself on shift using ingredients from a burger that was on the menu at the time. Suddenly I was getting asked to make it multiple times a week for everyone from my dishwasher to the General Manager.” 


Take some time to batch the chipotle pâté, suggests Chef Rich. “It can be portioned and frozen ahead of time, giving you something tasty and easy to make in a pinch with little prep time.” 



As Executive Sous Chef at Forte in the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Tyler Tays says inspiration comes from regionality. “When we look at a dish, we look at the main ingredient, where it’s coming from, and what kind of complemented flavours we can put together,” he explains. 


Chef Tays, a self-proclaimed ‘pizza guy’, is more than ready to share the one go-to pie that both he and his staff love to eat, Burrata and Mortadella Pizza. “This is my go-to pizza - what I eat, and what our staff love to eat.” 


“It speaks to me; the quality of meat, the burrata. The white sauce, pistachio pesto, and cheese, is rich and light at the same time - it’s perfect.” 

Keep things simple. There’s no need to ferment the dough. You can switch out ingredients for what you crave: mortadella and prosciutto for salami, a traditional pesto, even mozzarella in place of burrata – though the latter is hard to beat! 




Fresh ingredients are high on any chef’s list of must-haves, and it’s no different for Chef Lindsay James at Edmonton’s Darling Restaurant. “I love to let an ingredient shine for what it is, for what the farmer has grown, and to appreciate what we’ve been given by simply seasoning it appropriately.” 


Perusing the menu gives you an idea of the care and craft used by Chef Lindsay and her staff: Brassica Salad, Turkish Eggs, Duck Rillette. Anchovy on Brioche is her favourite. “It’s extremely simple but hits the spot every time. I could easily eat five pieces.” 


In the kitchens at Darling, Tomato and Mushroom Cassoulet stands out as an often-prepared staff meal. It’s affordable and hearty, easy to put together, and it also helps us clean out our fridges by using up odd ends.” 


Comfort food should be kept simple, adds Chef Lindsay. “Cook your proteins low and slow, cook your veggies on high heat to maintain texture. Season and taste as you go. And have a glass of wine while cooking!” 




Peter Tsoulamanis’ inspiration for cooking comes as much from his environment as it does entertainment. He grew up watching cooking programs on TV, but he also trained his attention on his parents, watching them cook traditional Greek cuisine.  


As the owner of TOPS Pizza in Calgary, Peter’s culinary education is still in full swing. “I am lucky enough to learn from our chefs with a variety of different culinary backgrounds. It has allowed me to learn different techniques and experience different cultural dishes as well.” 


Pastas and soups served at TOPS are Peter’s favourite. “Both dishes can be as simple or complex as the chef wishes to make them, and they will bring out all your skills, techniques and attention to flavours when you’re putting together a tasty dish.” 


A three-for one is a deal no one can pass up after the holidays, and Peter shares his recipes for Tomato Minestrone, Chicken Noodle, and Beef Barley Soups, all made using the same base, but easy enough to modify. “Have fun with the recipes by changing vegetables, seasoning or the pasta ingredient. There are so many noodles and rices to choose from, experiment and see which ones you enjoy the most!” 



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