Craft Food house quickly established itself as one Cobourg’s favourite restaurants almost as soon as it opened three years ago. Even in normal times running a restaurant is not easy: the failure rate is high. But now times are far from normal, and not only did head chef and owner Zab Vanderhayden have to cope with the ongoing ramifications of Covid -19, shortly before the pandemic struck, his partnership with Nuno Teixeira came to an abrupt conclusion.
Zab granted me a few moments in which he told me about a report in the New York Times predicting “that two out of every three restaurants would fold,” whilst simultaneously participating by cellphone bidding in an online auction, to buy equipment from restaurants which had sadly, ceased to operate. A commercial refrigerator can easily run ten thousand dollars, I now understand.
In an inspired move, as soon as Covid-19 hit, Zab hired someone to deal with his social media and another chef so he could spend more time in the restaurant rather than the kitchen. Take out and charcuterie boards now became the focus of the restaurant’s activities along with catering. Take out trade is thirty-five percent up and Zab gives credit to his incredible staff. “No one left, because we make Craft Food House a comfortable environment for our staff, if they need to go and pick up the children they can do that.”
Most Saturdays there is a pop up diner, the next one features an exotic Peruvian theme. One the menu is a grilled chicken dish with garlic cooked in lime juice and cumin, paprika and oregano which sounds delightful. Zab’s leaning towards the unusual stems from a background which is half Dutch and half Guyanese. Dutch people have no indigenous cuisine, as a seafaring and trading nation they simply borrowed anything and everything they enjoyed from far away lands incorporating those dishes into their diet, consequently ‘Dutch cuisine,’ must be amongst the most diverse in the world.
In the business for some forty years, Zab has had considerable experience including that of working in restaurants with Michelin stars and has kept company with several top class chefs. But that is in the past, Zab is all about the now and the future. “It’s all about being consistent, but evolving too...we have no paper menus because the menu may have changed before they are printed.”
Zab has a particular passion for healthy food, “there is no deep fat fryer in our kitchen...Sysco does not deliver here.” I can personally recommend much of the menu for being delicious and healthy, a particular favourite where Zab’s sense of humour shows through, is the Check Your Pulse Salad. Whilst the health giving attributes of kale feature in many of Zab’s recipes, I was truly astonished to learn that Craft Food House is Ontario’s No.1 consumer of kale with monthly budget of three thousand dollars! Zab truly is the king of kale.