Chef offers modern take on authentic Bavarian cuisine
Food: Charlie Holschuh celebrates 20 years creating culinary art in Bragg Creek
By: By Thandi Fletcher
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011 06:00 am
For some, the thought of Bavaria conjures images of beer steins and “oom pah” bands, but an award-winning restaurant in Bragg Creek has set out to break down that stereotype.
“If you go to the finest restaurants in Munich, they do not have any of that,” said Chef Charlie Holschuh, co-owner of the Bavarian Inn.
Run by Charlie and his wife Pam, the Bavarian Inn offers foodies a contemporary twist on traditional Bavarian cuisine.
“Our food is more authentic and up to date,” he said. “After all, cuisine does change over the years.”
The Bavarian Inn has been a local favourite of the Bragg Creek food scene since 1976, but it wasn’t until Charlie took over in 1991 the restaurant began its transformation into the fine dining establishment it is recognized as today.
It was during a trip to the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary when Charlie first saw the restaurant.
“I was quite impressed with the food they were serving,” he said.
Charlie wanted to buy the business, and started planning his move to Bragg Creek. However, when he arrived at Calgary International Airport one year later, he received the bad news.
He lost the restaurant to a higher bidder.
“There I was standing with my little 11-year-old daughter at the airport waiting to be picked up by some friends,” he recalled. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, I’m standing here with my suitcases, I can still turn around and go back home.’”
Ignoring the urge to hop on the next plane back to Germany, Charlie decided to stay in Canada.
“I’ve always thought things happen for a reason,” he explained.
For the next few months, Charlie donned his chef’s hat at several restaurants throughout Calgary, including the Skyline Hotel, now the Marriott.
Charlie’s patience paid off.
He soon received a phone call his dream restaurant had become available again. The new owners, who had changed both the menu and the restaurant’s name, had been unsuccessful in their business venture.
Charlie immediately jumped at the offer, and bought the restaurant and the new Bavarian Inn opened on Jan. 15, 1991.
The first order of business? Digging up the old Bavarian Inn sign from storage.
“I washed it off and hung it up in its rightful place,” said Charlie.
But it was a tough time to get a new business up and running. Not only was Canada in the midst of an economic recession at the time, but also the government had just implemented the GST.
“It was very tough for me to run the business by myself,” explained Charlie. “I was the new guy and dealing with old, regular customers was not easy. They basically would try to tell me how the business should run.
“But me, being a stubborn Bavarian, it came in handy,” he added with a laugh. “Stubbornness can be a good quality. It’s very close to pride.”
Soon after Charlie opened the restaurant, he met his soon-to-be wife who came to the restaurant as a diner one evening. Later on, Pam took on the task of helping him run the business as manager and wine director.
“Besides falling in love with Pam, the bonus was that she was interested in helping run the business as well,” he smiled.
Over the past 20 years, the restaurant has changed significantly. In 2003, Charlie and Pam bought out the building in which the Bavarian Inn is located, and set out to put their restaurant on the map.
“We wanted to be known as a great fine dining establishment,” he said. “People can drive out here, bring guests, and show them the scenery and spend the afternoon.”
In 2007, the restaurant was gutted and renovated with a new paint colour, modern décor, a rebuilt patio, and a new wine room.
Two European chefs have been added to the culinary team, including executive chef Reudiger Schmidt from Germany, and sous chef Raffael Kaeser from Switzerland.
Along with his culinary team, Charlie ensures the menu is regularly updated to include trendy and unique flavour combinations. The restaurant has also embraced the local and organic food movements, getting almost all their ingredients from local producers and many European farmers in southern Alberta.
Today, the restaurant specializes in what Charlie described as a blend between Alpine and Rocky Mountain cuisine.
“Rocky Mountain cuisine is very close to Alpine cuisine,” he explained. “They both use wild game because they have it in the mountains, and the flavours are similar as well.”
Still, being a Bavarian restaurant, the most popular dish has always been the Weiner Schnitzel, said Charlie.
“You can’t get it anywhere else,” he said, explaining the Bavarian Inn is the only Bavarian restaurant in the Calgary and foothills region.
Today, the restaurant is considered by many local foodies to be one of the best fine dining establishments in Calgary and surrounding areas.
Last year, Calgary’s Avenue Magazine named the Bavarian Inn as runner up to the “Restaurant of the Foothills” award. This year, the restaurant also made the cut for the “Judges’ Recommendations” list, on Avenue’s annual Best Restaurants guide.
In 2010, Charlie was selected as one of the top 10 chefs in Calgary to compete in Gold Medal Plates, a competition where top chefs from eight major cities across Canada compete for the honour of becoming Canada’s top chef.
The restaurant also won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its diverse menu of more than 100 different quality wines, including 50 from Canadian vineyards.
As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bavarian Inn under Charlie and Pam’s ownership, the restaurant is commemorating the occasion with a promotional deal every month of the year. In March, patrons receive 50 per cent off items from the regular dinner menu.
The Bavarian Inn is open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. Lunches are offered on Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:30 a.m. For more information or to book a reservation, visit www.thebavarianinn.com