Shalom Life | October 24, 2014

Ryan Smolkin is Smelling the Greasy Scent of Success

In contrast to popular belief, Ryan Smolkin has found great success thinking with his stomach instead of his head.

By: Carl Hiehn

Published: September 11th, 2009 in Culture » Food » Interviews

Ryan Smolkin is Smelling the Greasy Scent of Success

You may be hard-pressed to find poutine at the Shabbat table, but Reform Jewish entrepreneur Ryan Smolkin has found great success serving up the Quebecois tradition to businessmen and clubbers alike at his 218 Adelaide W. store, Smoke’s Poutinerie. So much success, in fact, that his second store at 203 Dundas E. will open on Thursday, Sept. 25th followed closely by a November launch for his 578 Queen W. location.

But Smoke’s accomplishments aren’t made out of just the traditional French fries, cheese curds and gravy – though it does the classic dish great justice. Rather, it is Smolkin’s instinctive need to reinvent poutine that has people coming back.

“I’ve always made my own concoctions,” Smolkin tells Shalom Life. “Even with Mac & Cheese, I used to add meat or vegetables to create some sort of dinner.”

From the poutinerie’s best seller, the Pulled Pork Poutine ($6.95-$8.95) -- which features a large scoop of, well, pulled pork atop the gravy and cheese -- to the proclaimed kosher option (which isn’t actually kosher due to multipurpose utensils and sinks) -- the Veggie Deluxe ($5.95-$7.95), served with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions and baby green peas -- the deep-fried dish has more variations than Starbucks has latte flavours.

A few of the more adventuresome variations include the Hogtown ($6.95-$8.95) with double smoked bacon, Italian sausage, sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions the Curry Chicken Poutine ($5.95-$7.95) with slow roasted chicken made with spicy curry sauce and the Montreal Poutine ($5.95-$7.95) with shaved Montreal smoked meat, a Kosher dill pickle and mustard on the side.

The 36-year-old entrepreneur, who describes his experience growing up Jewish in Smiths Falls, Ontario as “different, very different,” admits that it was his religion and culture that inspired his drive to succeed. He opened up his own graphic branding company called Amoeba Corp. in his first year out of university in ‘96, which he sold two years ago to John Street Advertising in order to take a few years off with his twin three-year-old sons Nathan and Samuel before following his long-brewing concept of a poutinerie.

Although the opportunist is thinking internationally, he is smart enough to stay provincial until business is steady. He has been travelling to nearby culinary festivals, including last weekend's Hot and Spicy Festival at the Harbourfront Centre, handing out samples and doing demonstrations. Alongside his two upcoming Toronto stores, he will also be launching Smoke’s Poutine Mobile which will be found throughout Toronto deep-frying all of the same products as the store locations. Not to mention, Smolkin announced to Shalom Life first that he has put an offer down for a possible store in the Downton Market district of Ottawa, and he is scoping out venues in the Kitchener/Waterloo region as well.

And yet, even with all of the store’s achievements, Smolkin doesn’t want to stop and smell the sweet (or greasy) scent of success.

“I don’t even think about it. ‘Here today, gone tomorrow.’ I just gotta keep on truckin’ and you gotta stay focused and keep plugging away.”

Smoke’s Poutinerie also caters events including weddings, tournaments, Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs.

For more information: 416.599.CURD (2873)

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