top of page

Open that Bottle with Cam Dobranski

Born and raised in Edmonton, Cam Dobranski’s parents had medical and scientific backgrounds. He always loved cooking, and as a young teen got his start in his uncle’s ‘50s-style diner, Crestwood Café, cooking breakfasts, washing dishes, flipping burgers and making stocks at weekends.

He worked for Earl's too, and when he finished high school, wanted to become a marine biologist. While accepted into biological sciences and technology, the culinary arts called and won, and on graduating from NAIT, and yearning to travel, he applied to high end restaurants around the world. “I moved to Switzerland as a 20-year-old kid for a year, and then came back and did a two-year business management course in 12 months, as I wanted to be more than a cook. I loved international business, and if I could own a restaurant and work internationally, that was one of my goals.”

Dobranski moved to Calgary in 2004 for a girl, but couldn't find a job. He recollects asking Kevin Turner at Brava Bistro, who suggested ‘Muse’, that had just opened, and with a little stint at the Fairmont Palliser too, worked at Muse, where he met Andrew Dallman, a cook, and started developing the idea of Medium Rare Chef Apparel together. Around that time, he met Louis Clement from Toronto, who was selling plateware. “I bought some, and this is my future Spirit Wares business partner,” he says. “He called and said ‘you're the only person that gave me the time of day. Could I fly you to Toronto to do a dinner?’” The dinner turned out to be Lynn Crawford, Mark McEwan, the thirsty traveler, Anthony Walsh (Canoe), and the who's who of Toronto. Food Network was starting out, and Dobranski was networked in.

He helped with the plateware in Western Canada, and then Clement started developing businesses in China, and would bring Dobranski over as a consultant to train chefs how to make Western food. “That turned into a consulting gig in China,” he smiles.

Meanwhile, he opened Winebar Kensington in 2008, AKA Wine Bar in 2009, Brasserie Kensington in 2010, as well as developing Container Bar. Darren MacLean invited him to partner as a group, “so I'm a small partner in Shokunin, and I get to watch Darren grow his business, but my real baby was Winebar. It was everything I wanted, but it was 14 years old when I sold it - in restaurant years that's 90,” he laughs.

“I've been able to do Food Network shows and I just did a Disney+ show, ‘Chef Versus Wild’. I really love outdoors. My parents have a summer cabin in northern Manitoba, and every summer I'd be shipped out for two months. I'd learn how to fish, build fires, and live a little rustic.”

“Over time I’ve gone from being a cook to a mentor,” he explains. “I changed gears because I was in Kensington 20 years from Muse to Winebar to Brasserie, and it was time for a change. Medium Rare and Spirit Wares need a bit more of me. It was one of the toughest decisions, and I struggled leaving my identity as a chef. I wanted to see all my employees be successful, and wanted a little bit of a legacy.

What bottle has Dobranski been saving for a special occasion?

He has a bottle of Tour de Marsens Vin Doux (sweet wine) from Les Frères Dubois. “We collect wine from places that we visit. We were just in Napa Valley, and I have some really nice biodynamic wines from Napa, but I wanted to showcase this pinot gris. Because I lived in Switzerland, it has a special place in my heart. A few years ago, for my 40th birthday, my wife took me to visit friends, and we spent a week in Montreux, the wine growing region. I’ve always loved Sauternes, and this dessert wine reminded me of a Sauternes.”

“It's a 2013, so we've been sitting on it. I'm sure it'll last for a bit, but we should probably open it sooner than later. I'll have to save it for a night when you could come and join us and try it.”


bottom of page