Mr. January 2016 - Dominic Ries
The Sexy Men of YEG Food are back with another calendar and a whole new crop of brave, sexy, community minded men.
Up first is Edmonton native Dominic Ries from Catfish Coffee, a local small batch coffee roasting company that can be found at Strathcona Farmers Market every week. As Dominic says “Catfish’s philosophy has always been about our customers and the community. We believe that a strong community is a healthy community and it will sustain itself in the long run.”
Here’s how he answered our 10 questions.
1. Why participate in the YEG Sexy calendar for Edmonton’s Food Bank?
“My Wife and I met Owen Peterson from Prairie Mills Bakery while we were working a Famers Market in Sherwood Park. The buzz was in the air for a new calendar that was coming out that supported the Edmonton Food Bank. Tracy and I loved the calendar and the idea of supporting the food bank. A few months later we met up with Owen again and he commented that I should be in the Calendar. My immediate reaction was…yikes…no way… its past my level of comfort. A few weeks later, Owen strikes again, and he reminded me that we all have to do what we can to help out others, even if it is outside our comfort zone. My wife Tracy was very supportive and the next thing I knew, we were submitting our proof photos to the Calendar Committee.”
2. How much did you know about the Food Bank before becoming involved in the calendar?
“Honestly, I knew of the Food bank, but I didn’t realize when I first met with Susan at the food bank that there were so many people using the bank. I also didn’t know the scope of products that were needed everyday. It was a real eye opener.” (Susan says – If you’d like to find out more about Edmonton’s Food Bank give us a call at 780.425.2133 to arrange a tour. We love showing people how we do our work!)
3. Where was the picture taken? Describe the day.
“Bri and Patrick from Detour Photography and Kerby Design came to visit us at our acreage to ‘do the shoot’. It wasn’t the warmest day in September, but it worked out that the overcast light was just right to make the most of the green of the trees and the Red of our old work truck in the promotional photo. Our Roasting Facility had enough character to take what seemed to be hundreds of photos, to capture just 2 for the calendar…Tracy started the roaster up and came up with the ‘steamy shot’ idea. After 2 hours of shooting, we invited them to have lunch with us and we spent the rest of the morning just visiting.”
4. What is the best thing about being in the food business?
“Diversity. The food business means so much to so many. There are so many variations and personal styles. We feel that its better to listen to our customer and have fun with what we do. We have had so many customers meet us each week at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market to tell us about their week and this had led us to long term friendships. We like the craft of roasting new coffees and showcasing them to customers. The personal touch is always the best approach. Even coffees that we have had for years on our rotating menu take on different characteristics with the change in seasons.”
5. What are some things that might surprise people about you and/or the business?
“The coffee business started several years before we broke onto the scene in Edmonton. Tracy and I met later in life in a most unlikely place, doing jobs that we both didn’t like in Calgary. It was a conversation on building a business together that started the final preparation and planning of Catfish Coffee.”
“The name Catfish was the next step in our identity. As most business owners know, it’s not easy to come up with a business name. We struggled with different names but found that they lost identity and weren’t memorable right off the start. Catfish was a familiar name to Tracy, a native to Winnipeg, that seems to catch our attention. Strange for a coffee company, but…it’s hard to forget. What we like now is that it has hit pop culture status and now it’s been shortened to just “catfish”..kinda like Elvis or Madonna.”
6. How did you get into the coffee roasting business?
“I had been trained on Roasting coffee in 2000, and I had a friend in the roasting business in BC that inspired me to step outside my comfort level and embrace the world of small business…Roasting Coffee is not an easy life and although it seems glamorous to some, the beginning to the end of the roast is hard work that really tests patience and is taxing on your body. Investing in the Commercial Roaster and starting up the business with environmental responsibility was months of planning and banging our heads. We purchased the roaster and a catalytic oxidizer to manage the smoke and harmful emissions of the coffee roasting process. Our small business was taking shape. It was only months into the business when we found out that we were expecting our son…and that changed everything. Our philosophy changed and instead of being in every store, we decided to keep small and keep listening to our customers. It’s made us better.”
7. What is the best advice about food you’ve ever been given?
“This is a tough question. I’ve had so many great experiences in the kitchens in Canada, Singapore and Australia. [Like many involved in the calendar and Edmonton’s food scene, Dominic went through NAIT’s Culinary Arts program.] I think the message that resonated the most was from a Swiss Chef working in the Singapore Hotel. ‘You may have made the same dish 1000 times, and although the motions are the same, never forget the excitement and the experience that the guest will have tonight when they try it for the first time.’ Tracy and I keep this message close to our hearts and the assurance that our customers get a great coffee experience every time with every bag is our goal.”
8. Any tips for the novice cook?
“Don’t limit yourself to the National and Classical recipes, but conversely, don’t go too far off the track that what you have made is indistinguishable. There is respect and pride in preparing the perfect beef tenderloin and the best accompanying sides. Too often there are ‘great ideas and inventions’ that don’t always work.”
9. What is your earliest cooking or food memory?
"My father did all the cooking in our house. My parents were children in Germany during World War II, and the basics of a normal kitchen were lost to them as they grew up. In coming to Canada and the availability of Western Ingredients took a while to sink in. I remember my father making us Head cheese sandwiches for school on black bread…..yep, not an easy trade to other kids in grade 3 …
10. What are your 5 favourite things about Edmonton? And why those things?
“I was born in Edmonton so there are many things that come to mind. I think that top 5 are:
1) The Old Strathcona Farmers market and the vendors.
The sense of community from the management and all the vendors to keep it local, in baking, making and presenting every week. It’s a family that we have had for 8 years. We never thought that our customers would become some of our closest friends.
2) Small Business owners.
Edmonton has a resilient group of business owners that we work with. In turn they support us and we support them. Get a great cut of meat from Acme meats and some bread from Prairie mills bakery. People work hard at their small businesses to help the community. The Gents baring all in the YEG sexy Calendar are a good example of that.
3) The Hidden Gems (restaurants)
There are so many hidden gem food experiences in Edmonton. These are family run businesses. I extend a challenge to all ‘foodies’…don’t take the well travelled path for a month. Look at the small restaurants that you have never been to. For me, it was the restaurants around 118 Ave . In the month of January, I have gone to 10 ‘new to me’ restaurants in central Edmonton. I have had Chinese Hot Pot, Afghanistan lamb kabob, Korean and Japanese buffet, Pho and an amazing Chicken shawarma and sfeeha meat fatayer. My advice, tell them it’s your first time and ask for a recommendation.
Edmonton has great events that come to the city that can fill any wish list.
5) Ft Edmonton.
We love the park and the experiences of the living museum. It’s our ‘go to’ place when we have friends from out of town."