Justin Leboe has never been comfortable resting on his laurels.
After earning his stripes in respected kitchens around the world—including The French Laundry in Napa and New York’s Daniel and Le Bernardin—he tore into the Calgary food scene in 2008 with the much-celebrated opening of Rush, before deciding to reinvent himself through the more simplified menus of Model Milk. A few years later came Pigeonhole, the wine bar next door that serves a broad array of hugely inventive small plates of disparate cultural influence. Many of these are vegetarian, and no less satisfying for it .
If you ask him why he’s driven to innovate and change, he’ll give you an almost dismissive, “It’s a question of never standing still.” But, for Leboe, it’s not just hyperbole. In addition to his thriving concerns at home, he seems possessed of a wanderlust that drives him to gather inspirations from all over the globe. (In fact, we managed to catch him for this interview in a New York hotel room, just before he returned to Calgary in time for a trip to Toronto.)
But if pressed, Leboe will admit he actually finds much of his inspiration in his Calgary location. “Honestly, a lot of the times it starts with the ingredients available,” he observes. “They say that necessity is the mother of invention—Alberta isn’t subtropical. It’s not a big salad bowl of what we can grow or raise. So, for sure, I take some inspiration from things that I have seen in other parts of the world or things that I have eaten. But a lot of it comes down to looking at ingredients that Alberta has grown for 50 years, and presenting them in an entirely new way.”
Cheers, Justin from Canada’s 100 Best and Veuve Cliquot.
You can read the rest of the story in the 2016 issue of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants available on news stands.