My WPG: Ben Kramer
My WPG is a monthly series introducing you to awesome Winnipeggers who share our passion for community-building and localism. In the latest post, meet chef and foodie Ben Kramer.
My story: I grew up in B.C., moved to Winnipeg in 2000, worked through a handful of restaurants and then I opened a place called Dandelion Eatery at Confusion Corner. It was one of the first local organic restaurants in the city, and definitely the first to do as local and as organic as humanly possible. After doing that for about four or five years, I left to take over the food services at University of Winnipeg. So I basically went from running a fairly established higher-end restaurant to running a cafeteria. Everybody in the industry and all my friends kind of considered it a step back, but I looked at the bigger picture and saw a huge opportunity to help change the food culture for thousands of local students. If I could influence even $10 for every $100 they spend on food, I’ve now influenced that $10 for life. After helping get that established and doing that for a while, I decided it was time for a change and went out on my own. So now I do a handful of really big events, like Folk Fest, Table for 1200, Interstellar Rodeo, I’m part of RAW:almond, but in between all that I do a lot of private work, like in-home parties and corporate events. It’s been different and it’s been hard, but I really love the range and the ability to be intentional in everything I do.
My hood: I used to live in Riverview, and I just recently moved across the street to the South Osborne area.
My go-to takeout: It would currently be Chosabi. I usually get the Poke Bowl, but I’ve also become a huge fan of the King Street Chicken Wrap.
My ideal date night: Segovia.
My guilty pleasure: I don’t eat a lot of sweets to be honest, but if I do it’s candy or something. I’m not a big dessert guy; I’d way rather have another dish or another drink than a dessert.
My favourite patio: That’s a tough one. I really love the Segovia patio, and I was a big fan of the Black Rabbit patio before it closed.
My favourite coffee shop: I’m gonna say Little Sister, mainly because of the convenience. It’s exactly on the way from my house to my kitchen, and I’d way rather that than going across the street to Starbucks or Second Cup.
My favourite event: The downside of my career is that I work a lot of events, so I don’t get to experience them like everyone else. But the thing I love about experiencing them from behind the scenes is that I don’t have to be in a sea of thousands of people; I get to enjoy it from right behind or beside the stage.
My best-kept secret: There’s this place called Dancing Noodle on Pembina. The guy does these amazing Chinese hand-pulled noodles. Nobody else in Winnipeg does them and not a lot of people know about him. He spent six months training and practising in China to learn this technique, and it’s just insane. (Ben proceeds to take out his phone and show us this video. It truly is insane!)
My ideal day off: I’d say walking in the woods and mushroom picking. It’s tricky and it’s kind of dangerous, but I love it. Even if I don’t find mushrooms, I’m still out of the city and outdoors.
My favourite local band: I used to like the D.Rangers, but they’re not together anymore. Not sure if that counts, but I’m not sure I have a favourite local band at the moment.
My favourite splurge: Probably Banville & Jones or the new wine store at The Forks (Ellement).
My favourite place to take out of towners: Segovia again. That’s gonna be my answer for a lot of questions (laughs). I don’t want to sound like I’m sponsored by them, but it’s the best.
Best bang for my buck: Dancing Noodle. It’s like $9 or $10 for this bowl you can barely finish.
One place I can’t walk into without buying something: Probably Banville & Jones. Wine is something I’m not super knowledgeable about, but I’m constantly trying new wines and trying to learn more.
My favourite road trip or weekend away: Montreal. I love the culture and the hospitality. You can go to a hot dog cart and you’re getting better service than anywhere else in the country. And it’s just a beautiful city.
One thing I want everyone to know about Winnipeg: There’s this myth that we have really brutal winters and there’s nothing to do. I thought so too when I first moved here, but after about three years I accepted that I lived here and I grew to love it. Honestly, I think there’s more to do here than anywhere else, provided you’re open to it.
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