In the Kitchen With: Christie Peters, The Hollows and Primal, Saskatoon

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As a teenager, Christie Peters was intrigued by the glamour of restaurant ownership. But it wasn’t until she finished high school that the Saskatoon-native first expressed an interest in cooking.

At the age of 21, Peters moved to Vancouver and took a job at Feenies, a position that proved instrumental in the course of her career. Not only did it mark the beginning of her culinary education, it’s where she first met her husband Kyle Michael, as well as Scott Dicks, who would later become the chef de cuisines for Peters’ two restaurants.

The three went their separate ways for a time, gathering knowledge and experience along the way. Peters held positions at De Kas in Amsterdam and Coi in San Francisco, fuelling her passion for seasonal, farm-to-fork cooking.

In 2011, Peters and Michael returned to Saskatoon with plans to open a restaurant. “I wanted to go away from home, learn a skill and then bring something back,” she explains. The pair opened The Hollows in an old Chinese restaurant site and three years later launched a second restaurant, Primal.

Both restaurants, located in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighbourhood, focus on high-quality, seasonal and sustainable fare, which goes beyond sourcing local produce and pastured animals — they also butcher whole animals, compost food waste and even make soap from old bacon fat and canola oil. The restaurants also have a horticulturalist on staff to help produce a variety of produce.

As part of its offerings, The Hollows features a five-course tasting menu as well as a regular menu. Here, guests can discover what Peters describes as “the true cuisine of Saskatchewan” through dishes such as rotating cuts of lamb served with polenta, beet-stem conserve and mint ($30); a “two-minute salad” made with greens grown in The Hollows’ basement garden ($12) and a root cellar carrot cake with cream cheese foam and lime zest ($10).

Primal boasts a casual atmosphere with a menu focused on Italian-inspired dishes created using seasonal ingredients, such as beef heart bolognese with house-made tagliatelle ($18); red-fife spaghetti tossed in olive oil with chillies, garlic and parsley ($16); and lemon cream with preserved fruit, organic whipped cream, meringue and fresh basil ($7).

As executive chef of both locations, Peters divides her time between the two restaurants and the permaculture garden that supports them. Though running two restaurants is time-consuming, Peters wouldn’t have it any other way. “My hobby and my leisure time is actually my work,” she says. “Having two restaurants and still being able to have balance in my life and be so happy and excited to go to work every day — that’s a big accomplishment.”

With The Hollows entering its fifth year, Peters wants to preserve the essence of the restaurant for years to come. Since the space is rented, there’s no telling when the restaurant will come to an end. “I really want to start working on a cookbook dedicated to The Hollows and all we’ve done here,” she says. “There is just so much to share.”

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