Saskatchewan culinary community rebuilds after significant losses in 2018

Recent loss of chef Dave Straub another devastating blow to culinary community

Photo by CJ Katz.
Photo by CJ Katz.

2018 was a year of tremendous loss for Regina’s culinary community.

Within only a few months last summer, acclaimed chefs Trent Brears and Greg Hanwell both passed away from the same aggressive cancer.

Brears was the Saskatchewan Legislature’s executive chef and president of the Regina Chefs’ Association, while Greg Hanwell was one of the partners behind The Willow on Wascana and Beer Bros. Gastropub and Deli.

Then in November, Dave Straub passed away suddenly, sending shock in Regina and elsewhere in Saskatchewan.

Straub was the chef and co-owner behind Flip Eatery and Drink, a restaurant that transformed Regina’s downtown dining scene. When Flip opened in 2011, it was standing-room only in a space that combined floor-to-ceiling windows with modern décor and decidedly upscale, yet approachable, food. Straub’s passion for Saskatchewan ingredients burst forth in each dish, making a meal at Flip a guaranteed quality experience.

He opened Flip with his wife Jackie, and business partners Tim and Abbey Martin. Salt, a charcuterie boutique, opened in 2013. The group later opened a second downtown spot, Malt City Whisky and Beer, which served sumptuous takes on nostalgic prairie dishes. It all ended last year. The group shut the restaurants’ doors and moved onto new opportunities.

It’s clear that in his short 40 years, Straub’s influence stretched far beyond what he fed people. Here’s what a few of Straub’s peers and friends shared.  

“Dave had this natural ability to elevate those around him. He was a natural leader that inspired more people than he'll ever know. He gave so many of us a chance (and) encouraged us to push our own boundaries.

“He was a mad genius when it came to food. His creativity, passion, dedication and love for the food industry was unrivaled. Menu ideas that he came up with were innovative, fresh, and deviously delicious. He wanted to educate the customer and get them as excited as we were about a dish.

“He was everyone's big brother. This world is a bit cold without him.” – Trevor Maghoo, sous chef at Bodega

“Chef Dave paved the way for us young chefs to dream of opening our places in Regina. He is an example of resilience and hard work. He will be missed and remembered as a big part in the story of this city's culinary growth.” – Mariana Brito, chef-owner Malinche YQR

“Dave Straub’s influence is embedded in the ever-evolving Regina dining scene. His commitment to local and sustainable food paired with his unwillingness to compromise his dishes’ integrity has helped shape another generation of younger chefs and cooks who will keep that flame burning bright. He was a colleague and a friend and will be missed.” – Jonathan Thauberger, executive chef Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar

“Dave was one of those chefs that kept his head down and focused on creating delicious food. He wasn’t flamboyant or outspoken. His dishes could resonate with anyone despite adding his own 'flip' of flair to classics like mac and cheese, paninis crammed with his own charcuterie or a great chocolate pudding. And he did it all without any ego; just a quiet guy making great food.” – CJ Katz, culinary author and entrepreneur

“Dave was the guy who could’ve gone anywhere in the world and been wildly successful. He stayed in Regina, taught and mentored a large group of young cooks, many of whom are now chefs. His culinary voice and talent will be missed and leaves a massive hole in the heart of our community.” – Chad Forrest, chef-owner Little Red Market Café

“Dave was a man who showed more love than I had ever known and more patience than I deserved. Who I am now and who I will become will forever be shaped by my time with him.

“I had known him for ten years when I came to him a broken man. I collapsed, exhausted on the bar at Flip, looked at Dave, and said, ‘I just want to cook.’ That was it. Over the next two years I put those pieces back together. Through his patience and support alone, I was able to grow into the chef I am today. Dave helped me learn the strength to face weakness and rebuild.

“I will miss my chef and I will miss his food but like so many of us, I will miss our friend most of all. While I cannot speak for all of us at Flip, Salt and Malt City, I can say it’s a point of pride for having been there – for having been a part of such a special time and place.” – Murray MacDonald, caterer and co-owner of Groovy Mama