CALGARY — Witold Twardowski, a long-time influential restaurateur behind many of Calgary’s best-known and revered restaurants over the decades, has passed away at 71. He was a creative force behind Calgary’s evolution as a culinary city.
Since opening Manna in 1972, he has owned, designed and inspired more than 50 restaurants in the city, such as southwestern hot spot Mescalero, The Bow Valley Ranche, Divino, Teatro, Victoria’s and Cilantro, as well as properties in the Rocky Mountains, including Emerald Lake Lodge.
Twardowski had a penchant for turning heritage spaces into vibrant dining spots and was one of the first to bring elements such as open kitchens and patio spaces with water features to the city. He was as much of an artist as a restaurateur, constantly dreaming up projects and creating restaurants that were all about theatre, atmosphere and experience rather than mere places to eat.
“Witold was a creative genius,” says John Gilchrist, retired Calgary Herald restaurant columnist. “His vision rescued many old buildings from demolition, drew many creative chefs to the city, and helped establish Calgary as one of Canada’s best and most interesting restaurant cities.”
“He was undoubtedly a visionary and a character, a real renaissance man with his quirky John Lennon glasses and suspenders, like a man from another era,” says Cinda Chavich, former Herald feature and food writer. “And though not every project was a success, he pushed the envelope and created restaurant concepts that moved Calgary into a modern culinary age.”
A public celebration will be held on Nov. 30 at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.