In the Kitchen With Chef Kevin Dahlsjo


When Kevin Dahlsjo, owner and executive chef of Two by Dahlsjo in Prince Albert, Sask., graduated from high school, he was given two options — work on the family farm or continue his education. Growing up in Kinistino, a small farming town south of Prince Albert, agriculture was in his blood, but it wasn’t in his future. Instead, after graduating from a class of 16, the budding chef enrolled in culinary school after finding his groove in Home Ec cooking classes.

Today, the chef describes his transformation from student to restaurant owner, while preparing tortillas for the night service at Two by Dahlsjo. He recalls a career turning point at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) in Prince Albert, where an instructor offered him a job cooking on the breakfast line at the Hawood Inn Lodge and Conference Centre in Waskesiu Lake. Dahlsjo rose to the position of head chef in four years and spent four more honing his craft. In 2008, he launched Sublime Catering. “Then an opportunity came up — a chef friend of mine gave me a call and said, ‘hey, if you’re interested in opening a restaurant, one of my regulars has some commercial property that’s coming up for lease,’” Dahlsjo recalls, explaining details of the 2010 call that propelled him from chef to restaurant owner. “It was an overnight decision.”

Since then, the 29-year-old has made a name for himself, being dubbed the Restaurateur of the Year on Western Living magazine’s 2009 Top 40 Foodies Under 40 list, and by competing in the Gold Medal Plates. And, most recently, he added the title of SIAST chef instructor to his résumé.

But, back at his 16-seat restaurant, Dahlsjo’s whimsy for food and flavours is channelled into a weekly rotating chalkboard menu. “Right now, I’m on a big taco kick,” he chuckles. “I don’t like to waste anything.” His tasting menu includes small plates such as jerk-chicken tacos topped with mango relish, avocado cream and pine nuts or white bean and watercress bisque with wild rice crackers, followed by a sour-cherry cheesecake finale ($130/couple with wine). The menu predominantly features local food from the neighbouring farmer’s market and produce from his brother’s greenhouse.

During dinner service, the cooks prepare dishes from a butcher block in the middle of the dining room and serve the guests. “Now that I’m in that instructor role at SIAST, and got some young guys here, I’m trying to get them dealing with people,” Dahlsjo says. It’s fitting, since the course he’s instructing is designed to give chefs hands-on experience working in a restaurant. “It’s going to be a complete fresh-style bistro,” he explains. “We want to put a lock on the freezer, [so that] everything’s fresh, made-to-order.”

In between running his restaurant, catering and teaching, Dahlsjo is already planning his next move — finding a house to transform into a restaurant. Perhaps the opportunity is only a phone call away.

image courtesy of Dani-Van-Steelandt

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