Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Place of His Own: Chef Michael Noble

Driving along a near-empty street bordering downtown Calgary, I pass a strip mall, a gas station, a series of lonely fast food joints, the windowless brick face of a recreation centre and the vast, dirty parking lot of a Tim Hortons.

Yet another strip mall appears on the left hand side of the road, beyond four empty lanes of freeway and a massive parking lot, and I see it: the sports pub Kayne’s on 17th Avenue S.W.. This is where Michael Noble — celebrity chef, mentor, man-about-town, Iron Chef contestant in Japan and Bocuse d’Or competitor — has asked to be interviewed.

Inside, the music is too loud. Large-screen TVs hang from every corner of the room and around the bar. There is no waitress, so I sidle up to the bar and lean between the surly patrons to ask for Noble. We are yelling back and forth, the bartender and I, but somehow the message is relayed.

Moments later, I am flipping through a stack of oversized plastic menus heaped on a small table next to the door. They are well designed, with big, bright lettering and alluring descriptions of the food. The text inside the front cover is all about Michael Noble — he has shaped Kayne’s menu, the design of the pub and has even been consulted on the staff. I am intrigued — and confused. Why is this hotshot chef designing a sports bar menu?

The man himself is suddenly beside me: tall and broad, with a contagious smile and firm handshake. “I’ve had to pay my mortgage, too,” he says, with a laugh. And now, Michael Noble, 48, is about to change his life — again. After a successful career in hotel restaurants from Vancouver to Nice, and a quick-ignite celebrity earned by international television spots and high-profile events, Noble went behind the scenes. By 2002, he had moved to Calgary and launched Catch, giving it one of the best menus and the best buzz in town. By 2006, Noble had transformed Earl’s from a franchise of family restaurants into a sleek eatery with a deeper level of culinary understanding.

Now, with a roster of high-profile friends and 29 years of experience, the chef is finally working on something completely his own: Notable (which he writes NOtaBLE), a restaurant set to open next month. Delays on the completion of the new building caused Noble to push the opening from last August to June, and those in the know on the food scene, locally and nationally, have been in a protracted state of eager anticipation.

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Published in Avenue Magazine, May 1 2010

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