Pure Kitchen - Kyle & Olivia
Even though you were exposed to cooking and recipes at a young age, did you ever think that would lead to owning your own restaurant?
O: While cooking was always a passion of mine, it wasn’t until I was finished my undergrad and had spent some of my adult life in kitchens that I foresaw this as my life path. Kyle and I dreamt about one day opening our very own little restaurant. We could not have predicted at that time that we would be the owner and operators of 4 restaurants and a cocktail bar.
K: Definitely NOT. It was not until working in a Farm-to-Table inspired restaurant in Halifax during/after completing a Graduate Degree in Political Science that the seed of the idea of making a meaningful career in the 'Industry' get planted. Even after finding a real love for the industry in my mid-20s, it still took another five years of exploring the industry and discovering our niche, that we finally decided to commit to the path that would eventually lead to opening a restaurant.
Tell us about the moment Pure Yoga reached out to you with this idea to open a vegetarian restaurant.
O: Kyle and I were determined to one day open a restaurant. However, with the burden of student debt, we did not know how to reach our goals while working low wage jobs. So, we gave our notice to both employers and landlords and were ready to move to Iqaluit to make and save money. Just as we gave everything up, we received an email from Jen Dagleish inquiring if we would meet with her, Amber and Dave about a restaurant project. Not expecting to be offered a partnership, we went to the meeting thinking they were looking for a consult on vegetarian forward foods. Low and behold, we were given an offer we couldn’t refuse. This was an opportunity to own and operate a vegetarian restaurant with some guidelines for the overall vision. We were instantly compatible with our partners and the vision. The rest in history!
K: I was recently recounting this the other day, and I think what sums up that day the most was that after our initial conversation with our soon-to-be business partners Olivia went to discuss what had just been presented to us and my primary reaction was " I'm so excited, I think I have to throw up."..... those first few days and weeks were pretty surreal.
When they first reached out we only knew they had the idea of expanding the 'Pure' brand to include a vegetarian restaurant or cafe and before having that meeting assumed they were reaching our for menu consultation. When the convention turned to being full partners in the venture, our hearts skipped .... as beat as we tried to play it cool and act natural instead of jumping up and down with joy at the opportunity.
What’s it like running a business with your spouse?
O: Kyle and I are not only married, we are also best friends. We are both patient and level-headed (most of the time), thoughtful and patient. We complement each other in so many ways. We manage different areas of the business and are rarely in each other’s way. This allows us to work together day in and day out without driving each other crazy.
Now that we have multiple locations, we rarely are at the same location together and are able to spend time catching up about what’s new when we do see each other. That said, opening 5 businesses in under 4 years has taken a toll on us, both hitting low points in our personal well-being. Luckily, we have a strong community around us who have helped us recover mentally and physically from extended periods of long hours and high stress. We have also been able to support each other in these areas. We are definitely stronger for this experience.
K: The best of times, the worst of times.
While it has definitely worked for us, most folks we know couldn't imagine working so closely and under such stressful conditions with their spouse. Given the demanding work load, especially during the first couple of years, had we not been doing this together, it would have likely torn us apart.
It's been a pretty magical experience (bonds forged through fire) getting to throw ourselves into a project together and to watch it blossom and grow. Pure Kitchen is a physical expression of our selves and has, for better and for worse, come to define most of our lives over the past few years.
The negative side is that for a period of time, our self-image and our relationship became primarily defined by our work lives and it has taken a conscious effort over the past year to reestablish boundaries and to find a work-life balance that doesn't prioritize work above all else.
Congratulations on the opening of your fourth location! Did you ever think Pure Kitchen would grow the way it has? Was expansion always the plan?
O: We always anticipated opening 3 restaurants, but could not have predicted the success of Pure Kitchen at the outset. Now that we have just opened our fourth location, we are going to take the time to level out (and sleep a little;-) ). We do have further expansion plans, but nothing is set yet.
K: Opening multiple locations was always part of the plan (dream), however we certainly did not expect the 'plan' to proceed at the pace that it has. 2-3 locations in 5 years was the initial dream, now we're 4 years in with four Pure Kitchen locations, plus Charlotte.... ( and still growing).
What is your favourite dish on the menu?
O: The Fantastic. I just love noodles in a creamy sauce! It is a peanut noodle bowl with lots of green veggies in it and has been on the menu since day one. It is a comfort bowl for sure.
K: Does coffee count. haha
My current favourite is the Brave Charred Broccoli appetizer. I love the satisfying simplicity of the dish. As far as main course meals my go to dishes are the Mystical bowl and the Liberty wrap with 1/2 salad and 1/2 fries. The backbone of both these dishes are super satisfying while both lending themselves to modifications so I never get bored of them.
How do you come up with the concepts for the dishes on the menu?
O: There are many avenues for inspiration that I draw from for the menu. Some are twists on classic dishes that are super approachable for all of our customers, think the radical cauliflower wings. Others are inspired by dishes I have tried at other restaurants or found in recipes books or online (pinterest). I also love to have fellow cooks contribute to the menu and try to provide a platform for our cooks to present their favourite flavour profile and meals. We normally start these as specials and if they are received well then they are candidates for the menu.
K: At this point in our development menu inspiration can and does come from many sources. Back when we first opened very near the entirety of our menu was inspired by ‘opening the taps’ to our creative juices and spending a lot of time in ‘trial and error’ mode but with pretty strict control over the process being held by Olivia and I. The longer we are open the more collaborative the creative approach has become, encouraging our staff and even our clientele to share ideas of what they would like to see on our menu.
As a vegetarian/vegan restaurant we strive to overcome these labels and to offer food and drink that rises above niche labels and that serve to normalize vegan fare and bring vegetarian dining into the mainstream
Tell us about some of the community initiatives Pure Kitchen is involved with: The Community Smoothie; the partnership with the Parkdale Food Market, etc. Why are these important to you?
O: We believe it is important not only to be a community for people, but to also give back to our communities. Whether it is partnering with a community organization for our monthly smoothie, taking teams over to Parkdale or The Mission to cook or hiring clients from Causeway, we want to help at the local level to break down barriers for those in need. We live in a socially conscious world and we all need to contribute to make this world more inclusive, supportive and wholehearted.
K: A recent edit to one of our long time tagline reads; "Pure nourishing food, on your plate and in our community, always fresh and always evolving." This shift in wording here was predicated on taking more pride and trying to better tell our story of community involvement.
At Pure Kitchen we believe we are so much more than brick and mortar locations and want to contribute so much more to our communities than delicious food ( although we sure take a lot of pride in doing that too !).
Our desire to make ongoing and meaningful contributions to our broader communities is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our company. As hospitality professionals the importance of breaking bread together and the power of food to bring people together as always been of the utmost importance. Community connections often starts at the kitchen table, the community garden, and the local farmers market. Regardless of the particular charity partner in question, we try not to take for granted just how lucky we are to be in a position to help others simply by doing what we love.
We recently co-hosted a fundraising effort with our friends at Pure Yoga for a member of our community who is battling cancer. While the reason for the event itself is quite sad, it was a beautiful experience seeing the Greater Pure Community come out and be together to support a member of our community.
When you’re not busy running a hyper-successful restaurant, where do you like to sneak away to for a date night?
O: Depending on the mood, some of our favourite spots are The Manx and Supply and Demand. Both have amazing menus. We also love to get out of the city to camp on a quiet lake or get down to the country (PEC) to sip wine.
K: Our favourite date night of course revolve around eating and drinking at some of our favourite local haunts.
Our favourites around town include ( in no particular order) ; Tooth and Nail, Bar Lupulus, Flora Hall and Citizen. In the summer we love to throw the Canoe on the car and get out on the water for a paddle and picnic.
What are some of your favourite activities to do together in Ottawa?
O: Almost all of our activities are based around food and beverage. You will find us popping into some of the wonderful places around town. If we have time, Spa Nordik is pretty high on the list too. In the summer, we love biking to a local park or beach to enjoy the sun or outdoors.
K: Mostly Eating and Drinking (See answer #8) .
I love living in Ottawa for the proximity and ease of access to Gatineau Park and other nature areas. We enjoy the occasional cross country ski, Hiking, canoeing, stand-up Paddle boarding, and of course Yoga.
Any plans to open a fifth location?
O: There are no firm plans, but we have a few ideas of where we are headed next.
K: No immediate plans for another full service restaurant location.
Our next focus for expansion will be small downtown lunch focused kiosks, allowing us to bring a quick and convenient Pure Kitchen concept to those who are on the go and may not have the time for a full service restaurant experience.
After that.... who knows, .... maybe Toronto ?