Before I jump into my experiences at Workshop, I want to dive into Part I, which started a few months before the doors of Workshop Eatery opened. I want to paint you a picture of how I stumbled upon this spot but in order to do this, we need to go back a few months ago to warmer weather and longer days in Edmonton… Don’t worry my fellow Edmontonians, I know we are in the heart of winter right now BUT spring is just 9 short weeks away and summer is here in 22 weeks ☺
I had heard rumours that a fresh new restaurant was coming to my neighbourhood (Summerside) and coincidently, I also saw some garden boxes pop up in front of a new commercial building in the neighbourhood. I realized this probably was not a coincidence and I was intrigued. I did some research and confirmed that yes, we were getting a new eatery in Summerside and it would be brought to us by Chef Paul Shufelt’s. Naturally I wanted to learn more, so I reached out to Chef Paul who promptly got back to me and we setup a time to chat.
Conversations with Chef Paul Shufelt
Despite his super busy and demanding schedule with getting Workshop ready for the world, Chef Paul agreed to speak with me so that I could learn more about his new endeavour. As we got into our conversation, Chef explained that Workshop came about serendipitously for him after he bumped into a colleague who was doing some great things at the new Mosaic Centre and recommended he look into checking out the space for his new venture. After a few exchanges and thinking about it for some time, he started the dialogue with the landlords of the Mosaic Center, Dennis and Christy Cuku.
Once the plan was finalized to open this new eatery, his conversations with Dennis and Christy transitioned from general dialogue to full on brainstorming sessions where Chef said “the ideas just started to flow – garden boxes out front, beekeeping on the roof, open kitchen concept, cooking with heart while having fun, getting in touch with local farmers, being in tune with the local food scene, you name it we thought it! We were just so inspired to make this happen.”
As our conversation continued, I began to make some obvious assumptions about what the restaurant concept would be, however, I did want to make sure my assumptions were correct so asked Chef what the heart of Workshop Eatery would be: “Local is a big focus for us and in its full meaning – local to Edmonton and local to Canada. We are cooking with ingredients right from our own backyard, so whether it is tomatoes from our garden, fresh produce from our local farmers, bread form the local bakery, honey from our roof, fish from the East Coast or morels from Saskatchewan, we want to incorporate local elements from across the country. We are also doing a small menu that will change seasonally, so we can highlight the best of each season.”
Working with passionate landlords ready to help out when needed, has also made this venture that much more appetizing for Chef. From hauling dirt together for the garden, to Dennis teaching him how to bee keep, Chef could not say enough about how incredible working with the dynamic team of Dennis and Christy has been: “How many landlords do you know, who are going to roll up their sleeves and help dig dirt for your garden and/or teach you the ins and outs of beekeeping? Having passionate landlords like Dennis and Christy have made this journey that much more incredible.”
When I asked him what their plan was for any extra produce that may pop up from his urban garden, Chef said that he is bringing it back to the way people used to do it: “Growing up, we had pounds and pounds of produce from fall harvest that my mom would preserve in different ways and this would last us through the entire winter. This is the concept we want at Workshop. We are doing a lot of pickling, preserving and even stewing to capture the flavours of these fresh fruits and vegetables from our garden at their peak and then have them available for dishes throughout the colder months.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, I couldn’t help but note how enthusiastic Chef Paul spoke about this new venture. He spoke so passionately about Workshop and what a labour of love it has been. With Chef Paul’s reputation in Edmonton and beyond, it is not hard to find countless articles and imagery of the spectacular plates he has composed in his previous tenures or of him in his element, working away in the kitchen creating the next great plate – this is common for any Chef of this calibre. Is this captivating, yes but it sometimes does not shows us enough of the other side of Chefs in this role; the more laid back side where we get a peak at their fun side and their personality which energizes their creative genius.
Well I had a chance to see this side of Chef during our conversation and his undeniable desire to create simple, handcrafted food made with love and deliver genuine warm hospitality to each guest. He wants to know all of his guests and neighbours, create a warm welcoming space and have the passion that he and his team put into every plate, excite the palate of each guest.
So there you have it, Part I of my escapades at Workshop Eatery. After the conversation with Chef, I had a good picture of the symbolic brick and mortar that make up this labour of love BUT would my experiences at Workshop parallel my conversation with Chef? Well, you will just have to wait for Part II which will be on the blog this time next week! I will share all the tasty bites of my experiences at Workshop Eatery in Part II so be sure to check it out. For now, you can consider today’s Part I your Amuse Bouche 😉