The chef also had a positive experience while working at Kissa Tanto in Vancouver. Douglas elaborates, "Ten years into my career, it was an interesting experience to have because I got to see more of the business side of things and how it was possible to manage people on a more dignified level."
Adjusting to Calgary's shorter growing season is both a challenge and an opportunity for Douglas. He points out, "In Vancouver, we were spoiled because the restaurant community there has such a strong connection with organic and biodynamic farms on the Lower Mainland. As a chef in Vancouver, you're receiving fresh sheets every day from farms, but it's not the same thing here in Calgary which makes it a little more challenging."
He adds, "The growing season and access to sun isn't the same in Calgary. We also don't have the deep roots that the Lower Mainland does for organic farming, so for someone like myself who wants to support organic farming, it's more of a challenge but it's exciting! I don't have the contacts that I developed over ten years in Vancouver so this spring is going to be a time for me to develop my contacts here."
Along with organic produce, Douglas is also passionate about organic and ethically sourced proteins. He says, "I’ve had a chance to meet people like Bert (Van Bruinhorst) who owns Ewe-Nique farms. He raises fantastic lambs that are humanely treated."
Seasonality is a crucial part of Douglas' approach to cooking at Pigeonhole. He explains, "Everything is entirely ingredient-based here. There are a few things like asparagus, rhubarb and fava beans that are coming into season now so I keep those ingredients at the forefront in my mind and develop dishes around those ingredients."
The chef talks about a smoked beef tongue dish that he's developed as an example of what he's doing at pigeonhole. Douglas says, "Justin Leboe, the owner of the restaurant, bought a barrel smoker which is basically a four times sized barbecue which cooks over indirect heat using firewood. We hot smoked these beautiful beef tongues over the course of about 12 hours. I was extremely happy with the end result. I surprised that Calgarians accepted a dish like that, but it shows me that people here are willing to try new things. It's not limiting to us which gives us more confidence."