My WPG: Kevin Burgin

My WPG is a series introducing you to awesome Winnipeggers who share our passion for community-building and localism. In our latest post, meet radio host (CJOB’s The Main Ingredient) and festival organizer (Winnipeg Beer Fest, Manitoba Food Fest, Manitoba Pizza Week) Kevin Burgin.

 

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My story: I was actually born in London, England, and I moved here when I was five. My dad was the breadwinner, but my mom wanted to move here, so she ended up applying for a job as him. He ended up getting the job and moved here first, and we followed shortly after.

Jumping way ahead, I met my wife when we were in our early 20s, and we moved to Vancouver. Vancouver’s a beautiful place, but at the time it was a beautiful place that you couldn’t afford to live in. I was bartending and working in restaurants, and it got a point where people would come in and tell me all the great things they were doing and we just couldn’t afford to do them. So we moved back home, we had a baby, we had another baby, and another baby (laughs). We’ve been married for 17 years now, and have three kids.

 

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No idea how this chick has put up with me for 17 Years but today is that day. Happy anniversary @jojojarrett5

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In the meantime, I was working for the Government of Manitoba and, strangely enough, Greg Mackling from CJOB approached me about a part-time producing job there. So I went down there and I met with the manager, and he asked my about my wife, my life, all these things that had nothing to do with the job I was applying for. And then he ended up asking if I wanted to apply for another job “on the other side of the glass.” I had no idea what he was talking about, so I ask him what he means and he asks if I want to get on the radio. After I realized he wasn’t kidding, I pretty much shit my pants. I’m just thinking about how I’m gonna make a fool of myself on live radio, everyone’s gonna hear it, I have no idea what I’m doing. But they were really good about it, they were awesome. They showed me the ropes, I learned how everything worked, and then I got a text asking if I wanted to take over the food show. I was like, ‘That’s kind of bizarre. I’m not a chef, so what do you want it to be about?’ All they said was, ‘Make it your own.’

 

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So one day I was driving by 529 Wellington, and I decided to reach out to the chef and ask if he wanted to be on the show. He came on and we hit it off, and you know when you get comfortable with people you can end up telling you a little bit too much. So he’s telling me about how he got into being a chef, and it started one night when he got really hammered with his buddies and there was this big ham or roast, I can’t remember exactly, and they put it on the barbecue and pretty much passed out. Luckily, it ran out of propane at some point, but the heat slow cooked it over night. So they woke up thinking this thing was gonna be completely burnt, but when they opened up the barbecue it was perfectly charred on the outside, and when they cut in it was a beautiful medium rare. And that’s what led him to becoming a chef.

So as he’s telling me all this, I’m sitting there thinking this is the best story ever. But afterwards he was a little bit worried about me airing it, not sure if it sounded very professional. Of course, I aired it anyway, and it turned out sales for that week were great. I’m not a radio guy, I have no idea about analytics or anything like that, but I realized that was the show. Just sitting and talking and letting the conversation flow. I’ll just keep doing that, again and again and again. That was three years ago now, and every single person I meet leads me to someone else – it led me to you guys – and here we are, having a beer.

My hood: We live in Charleswood, my wife’s old stomping grounds. We used to live in St. James, and then the housing market went up. We realized it was a great time to move into a bigger house and make some money. We were looking all over the place, but we depended on my wife’s parents so much at this point that we had to move somewhere where we’d get the same amount of help. That narrowed it down to Charleswood, St. James or River Heights. So we ended up buying our place in Charleswood, off a friend of my wife’s old boss actually. That’s when the bidding wars were really bad, so having that in actually helped us get it. Plus, she took I think five grand off the price because the lawn was so bad. There were spots in the back where the weeds were literally up to your knees, and she felt so bad about it that she knocked the price down for us. Anyway, we’re still there and our kids love it. It’s such a great area.

My go-to takeout: There’s this pizza place I discovered in Charleswood called Signature Pizza. One time I was driving by there and I felt like pizza, so I figured I’d give it a try. So I open it up and take a bite and I think this is some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. Anywhere. The crust, the ingredients, everything. So of course I go in there, and I meet the owner. It turns out he’d only been there for a few weeks and used to own a pizza place years and years ago. Anyway, I’ve ordered from there a million times since and recommend it to everyone.

My favourite local patio: Have you been to the patio at 529 (Wellington)? I’ll tell you this right now: it is literally, hands down, the best patio in Winnipeg. They don’t advertise it, so it’s never full, and when you get out there it’s like you’re not even in Winnipeg anymore. Mature trees, lots of shade, a little bit of sun cracking through, a river in the background, multiple levels, great size. Just beautiful.

My favourite local brunch spot: Black Bird. Clementine is nice too, but probably Black Bird. They have really good food and it’s super reasonable.

My favourite local coffee shop: I’m not a big coffee drinker, but Parlour on Main. And the reason I like it is Nils Vik, the owner. The first time I met him, I told him I hated coffee, I thought it was just disgusting. He told me the coffee I was drinking, the coffee I hated, wasn’t actually coffee. So sure enough, he handed me a cup and told me to taste it. It was actually good, and it didn’t taste like anything I’d ever had before. Plus, the place is super simple, no bells and whistles. So yeah, great guy, great place. Parlour Coffee.

My favourite local band: My favourite local band used to be The Watchmen, only because I used to work at a record store with the lead singer. That’s how old I am (laughs). My favourite Canadian band is Monster Truck. I love Monster Truck.

My favourite local event: Beer Fest, man! And not just because it’s my own (Kevin is a co-organizer of the event). It came out at a time when everyone was questioning local brewers and wondering if maybe there were too many, so it was nice to show them some appreciation and support. We’re still way behind in the craft beer market, so anything we can do as a city to catch up is a good thing.

My guilty pleasure: Yeah, that’s burgers again. And chips. My wife will head to bed and I’ll still be in the kitchen, just snacking away. Old Dutch Sour Cream & Onion, Pringles. If it’s open, it’s done. I love chips.

My favourite splurge: Burgers. I love burgers. I. Love. Burgers. Have you been to The Grove and had a burger? Dude. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a burger at The Grove. They have the Stafford Burger – pardon me for droppin’ F bombs – but it’s F—ing insane. Yeah, I love burgers.

 

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One place I can’t walk into without buying something: Oh, that clothing place on Kenaston at Grant. Danali. He has great clothes, but it’s because the owner is just the best guy. He’s not pushy, he’s not a salesman. You can tell he does what he does because he truly loves clothing. He’ll talk about where he got it, or what it’s made of. And everything in the shop is top quality.

Best bang for my buck: Price-wise, I actually think Brazen Hall is super reasonable. Great beer, great food. For the longest time I would just order the Farmer Jon burger without even looking at the menu. You know a place is good when it’s busy at times that other places are dead, and Brazen Hall’s always busy. They’re obviously doing something right.

My ideal day off: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I like to relax. I know this will sounds really bad, but I love Netflix. The only thing I have to be careful of is not watching ahead, because in our house that’s like cheating (laughs). But yeah, I like watching movies, I like watching series. Right now I’m into Animal Kingdom and What/If.

My favourite day trip or weekend away: Anywhere in Manitoba. Right now we’re so busy, we’d even go to our neighbours’ house; just leave the kids and hide out for a bit (laughs). No, but honestly, Clearwater, Gimli, anywhere in Manitoba.

My favourite place to take out-of-towners: Ten years ago this would not have been my answer, but The Forks. Hundred per cent. They’ve done such a great job there over the past few years, it’s incredible.

 

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One thing I want everyone to know about Winnipeg: I’m kind of conflicted there. Selfishly, I think there are so many awesome things about Winnipeg that I don’t want it to become the next Toronto or the next Vancouver. So I don’t really want to tell people how great it is and see it keep growing. I find it funny that so many people still go away for certain things, like food or experiences, when Winnipeg is second to none for all those things.

 

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