As part of an industry that can quickly take over your life, chef Edgar Gutierrez practices kali — a form of bladed martial arts and dance developed in his native Philippines — to focus on his mental health. He uses the martial art to centre himself and help him better navigate a fast-paced kitchen environment — all while sharpening his knife skills.
“I started moving better in a fast-paced kitchen; [it taught me better] body mechanics and gave me a new appreciation for a knife,” Gutierrez says. “[The martial art taught me the value of] exercising and meditation, which have helped with anxiety and weight loss. I don’t get as angry and my [habit for] road rage is almost nonexistent. Personally, I would love to do more martial arts — it’s helpful for me as a chef.”
As a child, Gutierrez cooked alongside his grandmother, preparing classic Filipino dishes and planting the seed for a culinary career.
“[Cooking] really resonated with me — the smells, the process, everything,” he says. “For as long as I can remember, food has always been an important family tradition.”
Today, the Edmonton-based chef runs three restaurants — Tres Carnales, Rostizado and Kanto 98 St. Eatery — that all tie into his roots, passion and perspective on modern-day Filipino and Mexican cuisine.
Formed in partnership with Dani Braun and Chris Sills, Tres Carnales Group planted itself in Edmonton in 2014 with a street-food inspired Mexican hotspot, Tres Carnales Taquería. The carne asada (steak taco, for $14) and the cochinita pibil — an Alberta pork shoulder with Mexican spice wrapped in banana leaves (offered as tacos, $14; quesadillas, $15; or torta, $17) — are customer favourites, along with the flautas de carne — corn tortillas stuffed with beef short rib and cheese and topped with salsa roja, guajillo-chile chimichurri and queso fresco ($15).
While the 70-seat Rostizado has a similar menu, the restaurant offers pork, steak and chicken burritos, as well as a vegan option ($15). It also offers a small-plates menu featuring ceviche amarillo and a dessert menu with churros as the main attraction ($6 for half, $12 for full).
But Gutierrez’s pride and joy is Kanto 98 St. Eatery, which taps into his Filipino culture and heritage. Kanto — meaning corner — offers a menu of Filipino comfort food that Gutierrez has been working on for years.
After graduating from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, he worked at Normand’s in Edmonton before moving on to a Holiday Inn in Burnaby B.C.
When he met his current business partners, he was looking for something more. The opening of Kanto 98 St. Eatery — a small 15-seat space — represented a return to his roots and introduced the big, bold flavours and the rich sauces that have shaped his style of cooking. With a variety of barbecue dishes, ranging from $10.50 to $15.50, bao and bowls, Gutierrez says the new restaurant has unlocked the best version of himself.