Chef’s Corner: Chris Pyne, Founders House Dining & Drinks


As a celebrity in his own right, chef and entrepreneur Chris Pyne’s humble beginnings began at 14 washing dishes at his family’s restaurant in Airdrie, Alta. He recalls being suddenly called on to cover for the missing pizza cook. “I was so short, I couldn’t even see inside the pizza oven,” he jokes. While most kids his age were goofing around, Pyne was already dreaming of ways to elevate simple, everyday ingredients into mouth-watering dishes with depth and texture.

At age 16, Pyne worked at the Country Hills Golf Club in Calgary, under his high school’s Registered Apprenticeship program. By the end of his first year, he moved into the sauté section and ran the hotline with the sous chef. “I was someone who wanted to get a head start as soon as possible, so by the time I decided to go to culinary school, I had already logged over 8,000 hours in my trade,” says Pyne.

Pyne returned to the family business when he was 18 to assume the role of head chef. He devoted himself to the restaurant for a year, creating each dish from scratch, training the staff and winning awards — including having the restaurant named one of the best places to eat in Airdrie — until moving on to NOtaBLE in Calgary.

While at NOtaBLE, Pyne attended Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and within nine months (at age 21), attained his Red Seal and Journeyman certifications while continuing to refine his skills under his mentor, former chef Justin Labossiere. “I gained a real foundation while working at NOtaBLE,” says Pyne. “I wouldn’t be the chef I am now if it weren’t for my three-year tenure there and working under Justin.”

Shortly after, Pyne found himself in London, England working with Michelin-star chefs Anthony Demetre and Marcus Wareing. During that time, he realized that “there are many restaurants in Canada comparable to many Michelin one-star restaurants in London. You don’t need to have one or two Michelin stars to know you’re cooking delicious food.”

Taking advantage of his Welsh background, Pyne re-located to Restaurant James Sommerin in Wales, where he was part of a team of six that helped the restaurant earn its own Michelin star.

Pyne returned home, yearning to share his passion for food with fellow Canadians. Within two years of accepting a position as head chef at Michael and Marion’s, originally a mom-and-pop-style restaurant in Barrie, Ont., the restaurant won an award for the best fine-dining restaurant in the city.

Family ties enticed him to Annapolis, N.S., where, at 26, he embraced Founders House Dining & Drinks as a “new opportunity to build a restaurant from the ground up.”

Founders House Dining & Drinks curates seasonal brunch and dinner menus to explore diverse foods and flavours. For dinner, the venue offers a five-course tasting menu ($95) or a surprise seven-course tasting menu ($125) with an optional wine pairing ($55), as well as an à la carte menu. Dishes include pork belly with parsnip, vanilla and pear; agnolotti with squash, bitter greens and preserved grape; and Blue Dot striploin and beef shank with bacon, celeriac, farro and truffle, among others.

Pyne’s foundation in French cuisine means he takes a sensory and organic approach to food, using only the freshest ingredients from local farmers and fishermen. “I try to make my menus about the product and the people who harvest them,” he says. “You know what you’re tasting. We use sustainable blue salmon from Nova Scotia with nice crispy skin, and then we make salt-baked beets, beetroot chips, and juice some beets to make sharp beetroot mayonnaise. Nothing gets left behind.”


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