Chef Graham Smith on Opening a Hotel Restaurant

The opening of The Malcolm Hotel delivered not only a new accommodation destination to Canmore (Alberta), but also a new dining experience led by Executive Chef Graham Smith.

Chef Graham shares with us the story of his “legendary” journey setting up the hotels culinary offering and some of the challenges he faced along the way.


1. What are your highlights so far as you have been opening up a new venue?

Being able to bring to life the culmination of my experiences thus far in my career is something that is truly a highlight of my life. Looking at blueprints, careful preparing and planning, then entering a fully functioning kitchen is a challenge that has taught me even more lessons. Mental stamina is at the forefront of any opening, and from this I have extracted many teachings that I can pass on to others, but also remind myself for the future. The benefit of this property is that I do not have to fit into a pre-written book of SOP’s, but rather I can take the absolute best practices that I have gained over the years, and write my own best seller of how we do things at the Malcolm. If I had to Name this book it would aptly titled, “#Legendary”.


2. What are the challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

Challenge: Staffing, finding the right people.
Solution: Resumes are just the beginning of the story as everybody has a unique one, some more interpretive than others. Interviews are the best way to find a team member that fills the void that we are looking for. Resumes are for achievements, where as conversations are for personalities.

Challenge: Setting up a kitchen
Solution: Make lists, double check, then check again. Efficiency and organization are everything when it comes to a kitchen, and being able to manicure your team to your vision of this is something that I keep in mind during the process

Challenge: Opening delays
Solution: Our restaurant had a “floating” start date. This enabled us to have several dry runs of the menu with our colleagues, and many sample plates to really dial in the entire menu. The colleagues loved it, to say the least, but I was joyous when the official start date occurred, and we received our first excellent feedback from our guests.



3. Where did your inspiration come from and what makes your dining experience unique?

Inspiration comes from life for me. Flavours, textures and presentations are all part of the experiment that I choose as my profession. Not only am I able to draw upon my own culinary journey, but also that of my peers in the industry as we are a very tight knit community, who love nothing else that to enjoy conversation over some libations and delicacies from time to time. Evolution of the item, and then finally seeing it prepared and plated to perfection consistently is something that I pride myself on.


4. Located in such a fantastic spot, how does the food connect with your surroundings?

Like the surroundings here, the food needs to be clean, simple, and pure. We are in one of the most pristine areas in the world and the food will reflect that as well. A carrot will be a carrot, but cooked perfectly. I am an avid supporter of Canadian products. We use Canadian beef, and several Canadian suppliers to create the experience that is expected. I like to work with the actual farmers, to learn the stories from behind the harvests, and procure products that grow in right here in Alberta. To bring awareness to what is cultivated in our own backyard is something that I love to educate people in everyday, both guests and Legendary team members.


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