Chef Garrett Martin might only be 27, but he certainly has an impressive resume that his peers and plenty of chefs his senior would love to call their own. To date, said resume includes time spent at the once acclaimed (now closed) Catch Restaurant and Oyster Bar under its former chef Kyle Groves, chef de cuisine at Pigeonhole when it was named the best new restaurant in Canada in 2016 by Air Canada enRoute and, most recently, running the kitchen alongside executive chef JP Pedhirney at one of the city's top eateries of the past couple of years, Bridgette Bar.
While making a conscious effort to work with some of the top culinary talents, Martin has also made time to travel. Last year, he and his girlfriend took a trip to Washington state to stay the Willows Inn on Lummi Island. The inn itself and its surroundings draws plenty of folks from the Pacific Northwest, many from Canada because of its proximity to Vancouver, but its restaurant and innovative chef Blaine Wetzel have been getting high praise in recent years by multiple American media sources and awards programs. It is also frequently compared to Noma for its approach and high quality execution.
After dining at the restaurant in 2018, Martin says he was completely blown away.
"We haven't stopped talking about it since," says the chef. "It was an unbelievable setting, combined with some of the best food we've had in any restaurant around the world. We had spent the whole day exploring the island and then came back to have a dinner that is perfectly representative of the island. It's a very unique experience, unlike anything you can find in the world."
In the months that followed, Martin said he started to feel a little stir-crazy and wanted to go work abroad again. He was eventually put into contact with the Willows Inn's chef by a colleague and after applying for a work visa, the Canadian chef recently arrived on the island to begin working with Witzel.
"Here, they don't use things like citrus or black pepper because it doesn't grow around them, but you don't feel like you're missing any of that when you're having dinner," says Martin. "They have access to the best seafood that the Pacific Northwest can offer. The quality is amazing. I've had Dungeness crab countless times in Alberta, but I never realized how it should really taste until I ate here last summer. Everything is a true expression of what the product you're using should taste like."
Though the chef has headed south of the border, for now, he says he is planning to return to Calgary in 2019 full of knowledge and inspiration from this rare opportunity--restaurants like these do not hire very often--and eventually open up a restaurant of his own.
"I love Calgary. It's been home for most of my life and it's moving in the right direction. There are great restaurants opening up all the time and the dining public is becoming more open to new ideas and flavours every day. I have strong relationships in the city: the chefs, the farmers, the diners. It's important to me to be close to the people I love."