2017 Foodies of the Year: Kevin Cam
With fresh and innovative cocktail programs, Kevin Cam is quite literally raising the bar in Edmonton.
“I was a 23-year-old trying to pickpocket well-off folks,” jokes Kevin Cam about opening North 53, in 2013, on a corner of Edmonton’s bougie Westmount neighbourhood. Instead, the room—dark and covered in black beehive tiles—drew in ultra-hip millennials, smitten by creative drinks requiring bartenders to torch sprucewood. But they hardly touched the tasting menu that was North’s cornerstone. Within months, Cam—neither trained chef, bartender, nor maître d’, but a well-travelled former fashion buyer with good tastes and, more importantly, investors—had to pivot. He changed chefs, supplanting elevated comfort-food share plates with whimsical baskets of tempura popcorn chicken dusted with blitzed popcorn. The vibe now is like “a party within a party,” says Cam. Lessons in hand, his second venture, Baijiu, required no weaning after opening this year. Inspired by Shanghai and Hong Kong speakeasies, with floral Asian murals on one wall and a Biggie Smalls print on the other, it’s both a tribute to his Chinese roots and adolescent days in Vancouver karaoke bars throwing back Hennessy and green tea shots. The drinks program romps with Asian ingredients like nigorizake, soy milk and Thai basil syrup, while chef Alexei Boldireff plays with a modern style of bao tacos and impossibly tender Szechuan-style confit chicken. Like North, it’s a multisensual combination. “I get a high when I’m standing in one of my rooms; it’s full, the Champagne is flowing and there’s laughter everywhere.”