Passion

It’s been a long time since I have written in this blog – probably a year or so – not that I haven’t had things to say, but more that I lost the passion to write.

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I have been so consumed with the head-above-water stuff that I forgot what makes my life shine: family, food and feeding people, writing, gardening, heritage preservation, and wool work.

For me, success doesn’t come from money or material things, but from living a full and interesting life. I have enough food, a house to live in, and businesses that serve people’s needs. I have a loving husband and business partner, a great bunch of kids and grandkids, the beauty of my garden, a committed team of talented staff, and I live a creative life.

I just got too busy putting one foot in front of the other and finding the money to keep the businesses open to remember why I chose this life in the first place.

A couple of things have reminded me of my passion. The first was the support and endorsement of a special friend of mine. She makes my life shine and I enjoy every moment spent with her. She holds me up and cheers me on. I try to return the favor.

Another contributing factor to getting my passion back is the recent recognition my husband and I received. We recently got word that we had been given the 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Architectural Rehabilitation for our work on 130 and 132 Jasper Street, formerly the Rex Café properties. Those who know me know my passion for preserving old buildings, and this recognition gave me a boost. As Sally Field so aptly put it, “They like me, they really like me.”

This winter and spring, I have been attending Connie and Geoff Phillips’ Paint Night every month. While I will never be a Rembrandt, I have rediscovered my love of form and colour and overcome my fear of failure thanks to their positive, cheerful leadership. This success has encouraged me to finish a couple of rugs I have been stalling on, and now to write this.

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At the Star, we follow our passion for creating memorable customer experience. Chef Joel leads the kitchen and Erin leads the front-of-house team to make sure your service, food and experience meet your expectations. We cook good food and serve it well in a beautiful room.

Our passion is food, and our customers are the stars.

Our tenth year

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It has been a long road to where we are now. We started in 2007 with a dream of what we would like, but had no experience owning a restaurant. I had worked in many restaurants and bars over the years, but never in management, and never with any insight into the sheer guts it takes to tough out the bad times and capitalize on the good times.

One of the real challenges in building an award-winning business is developing an ego – a strong sense of self and confidence in your own leadership and vision. It is easy to listen to other people, friends, family, staff and customers, as to what you should be doing with the business, and it is certainly important to adjust your vision and direction based on the marketplace. Still, having listened to and incorporated other people’s advice, it is just as important to articulate your own values and goals to your team and make sure they understand what you expect the business to deliver.

In our case, the underlying values of the Star have never changed. We value excellence in all we do. We value our customers, our team, our community. We value fresh ingredients, complex flavours and careful preparation. We value heritage.

We are now about to enter our tenth year, with our ninth birthday on June 8, 2016. In some ways it has seemed like way longer, and in other ways it seems we opened only yesterday. I do know that while sometimes I may be tired or out of sorts, when I walk into the Star and greet the team, I always get a lift and look forward to service.

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When we opened, our tables were dressed in white tablecloths and stemware. We had visions of grandeur and wanted to compete with the big city restaurants. Over time we went to checked cloths and coloured napkins, and now we have bare tables with cotton napkins. We still do white cloths when asked and on Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, but we have come to realize that a small-town restaurant has to reflect the community as well as the owners’ aesthetic.

We have to reflect the community’s values as well: hard work, fair value for money, and above all, friendliness and mutual respect. These values are the glue which cements our ties to Maple Creek and its people. We hope the Star will serve you as well for the next ten years.

Refining our style

We have started this season’s round of menu wars, which, by the way, has gone very well, and it got me thinking about style.

I spend a few minutes on Pinterest every day, not looking at food, but at decorating and crafting ideas. I have been an avid primitive decorator and heritage craft buff for many years, and Pinterest has certainly slowed down my magazine buying (which my daughter Rachel will appreciate when I die and she has to go through my stuff).

When I did the annual magazine purge about a month ago, which is really just looking at my magazines for a day and keeping most of them, I noticed a real trend in the evolution of my style, which is also reflected on my Pinterest boards. Now, I can see that reflection in our upcoming menu as well.

When the kids were small, I was all about country – pine and gingham and borders on my walls. I lived in a log cabin for a while when they were small, and this greatly influenced my decorating style, although it is hard to put any kind of wallpaper border on a log wall. I have loved antiques and country decorating since high school, and still have the first real antique I bought with my own money when I was 18.

As the kids got older and I had more time and money, my decorating schemes became more Martha, with subdued powdery colours and rich looking fabrics – a very upmarket feel. I still had a great garden, put up my canning, and did my crafts, but I pared down the gingham and fussiness and went for classic good taste. I collected Wedgewood and Spode and amassed a huge number of high-end kitchen tools. I was organized, driven by perfection and really hard to live with, I suspect.

The kids left home and I refined my style further, caring less about perfection and more about authenticity, landing finally on a heritage-driven, primitive look that easily incorporates my rather substantial collection of unique “junque.” Now I look for quality and simplicity and find beauty in the well-used piece that shows its history.

This evolution to quality and simplicity shows itself in our menu as well. Gone are the days of trying to impress with frills and ruffles, special sauces, hard-to-stock ingredients and one-upmanship. The heritage of our town and our people, carefully thought-out flavours, and unique dishes characterize our food these days. The classics are still there, but Chef Joel has a clear vision about what is Star quality and what is not.

Of course, there are menu items we cannot get rid of (yes, the portobello mushroom is still on), but you will see a continued reflection of the traditions of our cooks past and present in our new menu, as well as a couple of my own favourites.

We hope you enjoy it.