When opening his restaurant in August 2012 Chef Robert Rose aimed to fill a niche in downtown Stratford. This is one of the few restaurants in the country serving only Canadian grown and refined products.
Rose started small when he opened, then later expanded his regular menu and specials board. The name of the restaurant has evolved as well: it is now Canadian Grub Restaurant, to reflect that it offers more than take-out.
Most recently, Rose appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada, a competition-based cooking show where contestants are challenged by surprise ingredients. While he didn’t win, the appearance did bring increased awareness to his restaurant. Rose said the week after the show aired in November he was markedly busier and with a whole new clientele.
Canadian Grub Restaurant appeals particularly to the health-conscious, in part, due to offering gluten-free bread made in-house. Rose said it took him six weeks and fifty bad batches before achieving success. This bread, along with the varieties Rose sources from Stratford’s The Butcher The Baker is used to make the signature sandwiches, essentially dinner-size subs with six ounces of protein and a choice of a variety of toppings. The turkey, apple butter and Brie sandwich is by far the most popular. It’s clear Rose takes local sourcing seriously – curing his own meats, for example, and with plans to do even more in-house, such as making his own summer sausage next year.
When asked if he thinks he’s converting people over to his way of thinking, Rose replies that he’s regularly winning people over to the menu and making them think about where their food comes from.
The restaurant space itself has evolved since opening, with the addition of a front seating area and a second kitchen with seating for twenty-nine people in the back. Inspired by Joel Robuchon’s restaurant in Paris and Momofuku in New York City, the open kitchen means the chef will serve customers directly. Rose loves the accessibility the set up provides. Given the close proximity of chef and customer, there is “no way to not communicate.”
It is in this space that Rose will be hosting his “Chopped Canada tasting menu” dinners created by himself and winning chefs of the show. He’s inviting each one personally to come and prepare a meal on Fridays and Saturdays in February and March based on their show appearance. Through 2014, Rose expects the restaurant to continue its evolution. He is already planning more special events and fine-dining inspired dinners in the back seating area.
85 Downie Street, Stratford
MONDAY–WEDNESDAY: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
THURSDAY, FRIDAY: 10:00 AM-7:00 PM
SATURDAY: 11:00 AM-4:00 PM
Having just returned from Europe, Emily Chandler has a full case of the travel bug but happily resides in Stratford. Follow her on Twitter @Emily Chandler.