An area restaurant went up against 20 other culinary establishments from Kamloops and the surrounding region to take home the People’s Choice Award at the annual Chef’s in the City event, which is hosted by the Kamloops Rotary Club.
Hop ‘N’ Hog, owned and managed by William Robinson and Teneille McGill, was a first-time participant at the event and Robinson said it felt “fantastic” receive the award.
“We really didn’t expect to have that much of a following already in Kamloops, but we obviously do,” he said.
“People were really happy to see us there; a lot of people even come to the restaurant from Kamloops to take their friends, so it’s really cool.”
According to the Chefs in the City website, the event is a celebration of the culinary arts, fine wine and beer, and over the past 10 years, has raised more than $325,000 to fund various community programs for youth in need, focusing on social support and proper nutrition for underprivileged children in Kamloops.
Hop ‘N’ Hog won the People’s Choice Award with a miniature beer festival brisket bun, made with 16-hour smoked brisket, jalapenos, cheese and apple slaw.
“We put that out and we won the award,” said Robinson.
“There are about 600 tickets sold, the majority of people voted for us and we won the award for the best food in the Kamloops region.”
He added they classify the restaurant as a fusion smokehouse, that offers more of a fine dining experience than a traditional smokehouse, and also serve non-smoked and vegetarian options from its menu.
Effort is put into sourcing all meat and fish from B.C., everything is smoked onsite, and all sauces and sides are made fresh every day.
Robinson said he decided to open a barbecue spot because he’s always been a fan of meat and appreciates good beer, and with craft breweries becoming more popular in B.C., it seemed like a good venture to pursue.
“I figured it would be a great opportunity with all the local breweries popping up to have just local breweries on tap and support local businesses in that way, and then the barbecue was really a growing restaurant trend and something completely different, that especially a lot of tourists from Europe wouldn’t have tried,” he said.
“I thought it would be a great starting point; we do have things on the menu that aren’t smoked—we do a salmon that’s not smoked, we do a duck breast, and tenderloin steak and they’re all sous-vide, which is a French style of cooking in a vacuum, so there are options. We also do a big vegetarian platter and we smoke the vegetables.”
Robinson added his family worked in the tourism industry in Spain and Africa before moving to Clearwater where they saw a demand for accommodation and tourism services.
After selling the businesses they’d owned they moved to Canada 11 years ago, eventually buying Flour Meadow Bakery and transforming it into the smokehouse dining establishment it is today.
Hop ‘N’ Hog also largely employs younger workers from the area, offering them a chance to develop as restaurant workers, with Robinson noting many of them who start out at the restaurant end up in management positions.
“It’s really good seeing them grow and learn what hard work is; we have two employees that started in the dish pit and are now managers. They know the business inside out and they can do any job here,” he said.
“Then we’re going to recommend them to any restaurant they want to work at and they’ll have a really good idea of what’s expected at a fast paced restaurant.”
As for the future of Hop ‘N’ Hog, Robinson said they’re looking at opening a second location, either in Kamloops or at a ski resort, to help keep operations year round as the restaurant is typically only open from May to October each year.
“We’re just looking for the perfect location and that would help keep some of our staff working year round because we could transfer people out, which would be really cool.”