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Open That Bottle with Nick Suche

Growing up in Calgary, Nick Suche’s first job was at Joey’s Seafood as a dishwasher, and he'd work in restaurants each summer, until moving out east for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Dalhousie in Halifax.

The program included work experience, and he loved his six months in Australia and again in Copenhagen, but on returning to Calgary he had no obvious career. “I had a degree, but no idea what I wanted to do,” he says, “so I did door-to-door sales, which was challenging, but teaches you a lot of skills.”

After a year Suche was ready to move on. He'd saved some money, and started traveling - and at the same time started a digital design business, teaching himself about websites and branding. Having seen other great cities, he was intent on leaving Calgary when he came back, so it was serendipitous that as he was preparing to go, his design business started picking up, and he decided to stay.

“I ran that business for about eight years, but I missed hospitality,” he explains. “There is something about the hustle and the energy that got me hooked. I wanted to do something like I’d seen in Berlin - dark, intimate bars for small groups of people.” Taste Restaurant was closing, and he purchased the assets, planning to design and redevelop it himself. “It was incredibly rewarding to see a space and a vision come to life - more so than I’d experienced in the digital design world,” he says.

Shelter opened in 2017, and it was a couple of years before Suche approached Chef Jenny Kang about working together on something bigger. “For Orchard, I had a clear vision, and we worked with a lovely designer, Kayla Browne from Bold Workshop, to make that space a reality. I’m on the conceptual side, my strength lies in developing the experience, and I need talented people to make it happen,” he adds. “We work with experts to breathe life into them.” It was a great success, despite the launch almost coinciding with Covid, something not in his business plan.

One of Shelter’s rotating pop-up chefs, Mikko Tamarra, is now chef at Fortuna’s Row. Trained in Mexican and Peruvian food, he tested his concept at Shelter, and it was such a hit he launched Con Mi Taco. Tamarra wanted to create a higher-end experience, and when Suche was looking at the old Booker’s space, he saw the room behind with enormous skylights, and knew it was too beautiful to let go. “I worked with Meghan Bannon and Tara Marshall at Mera Architecture, and that was by far the largest undertaking we've ever done.”

“I'm looking for the next concept we can add to our portfolio. For a restaurant to work you need the space, the talent, and the deal. Usually, you can find two and have to fit the last little piece into place. There's a couple of spaces I've seen that are quite cool, and there's a couple of chefs. Can we get that deal right where it's going to make sense for us to do it?” We can’t wait! “I can't wait either,” he laughs.

So what is Suche’s special occasion bottle?

“It's a single malt Japanese whisky, and it's very special,” he says. Saburomaru Distillery has been producing whisky for 70 years, and in 2016 started to produce only malt whisky. “This is the first edition, and it's based on tarot cards. It’s 0 The Fool, all about new beginnings. It's very unusual for Japan, which is a very traditional culture, to do something this different.”

“It was given to me by a really close friend at the launch of Fortuna, and it's a thoughtful gift aligning with the direction we're going. I think he got the only two bottles in Alberta, there's only 2,000 bottles globally.”

“We just cracked into it”, Suche laughs. “It's uncharacteristic, as I have this habit of receiving a high-end gift like this that looks gorgeous, and I'll sit on it and wait for the right occasion. And sometimes the right occasion never comes, right? So this is a fantastic gift, and I’m like, let's try some right now, let's do this today.”


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