The pressure is on to have Coquitlam's newest Cactus Club Cafe open by mid- to late-January 2023.
As many as half of the 300 full- and part-time staff have been hired, with more on the way, for the new 336-seat restaurant under construction next to Coquitlam Centre on Barnet Highway.
Equipment such as heavy duty, multi-purpose ovens — each costing as much as a brand new truck — and eight fryers, including one just for gluten-free food, are in place while cabinet makers put the finishing touches to mill work throughout the 10,000 sq. ft. space.
Originally slated to open in October, the Cactus Club will be the second for the city; there is also another eatery at 101 Schoolhouse St.
Supply chain challenges facing other construction sites also hit Cactus Club, delaying the opening; however, staff who have been hired are training at other locations while the team behind the new operation deals with start-up issues.
Opening a new restaurant is a delicate dance but one that Dustin Schroer, director of front of house, and Darrick LePage, regional chef, have been through many times: Both have opened more than a few Cactus Club cafes in the Lower Mainland over the years.
"It was nice and cool to open this restaurant together," said Schroer, who has partnered with LePage at a number of locations over his 16 years with Cactus Club.
"We're proud of what we do. We do want to show this off," said LePage, a Red Seal chef who took his training through the Cactus Club, rising up the ranks over 24 years with the company.
Here's what guests can expect when the restaurant opens next month:
In the dining room
- Lots of natural wood features and glass
- A large vestibule with room for guests to sit while they wait for a table
- A 118-seat lounge and bar, where two to five bartenders will work in a orchestral pit-style enclosure so they can be eye-to-eye with customers
- A fully enclosed patio with manually controlled heat and misters, picture windows looking west that can be opened and 100 seats
- A 118-seat dining room, where diners sit in comfortable booths
- Multi-functional spaces that can be used for larger functions, including sporting events, where four projectors can be lowered for viewing games
In the kitchen
The large kitchen takes up almost half the restaurant and will have separate areas for food prep, a massive dishwashing area, an appetizer station for making wraps, wings and mini burgers, and an entré station, where trained staff will make popular lettuce wraps, along with burgers, salmon, steaks and pasta.
A separate prep area has been set aside to make sushi, with a special machine called a rice tumbler, to create perfectly seasoned rice mats.
"It's not an easy dish to make," said Schroer of Cactus Club's sushi rolls, including spicy ahi, zen and prawn crunch.
Schroer said extra effort is being made to ensure that dishes are flavourful, fresh and consistent from restaurant to restaurant, using local ingredients where possible.
Ocean Wise sustainable steelhead trout comes from Vancouver Island, chicken from the Fraser Valley and Cactus Club gets "first pick" on vegetables grown locally.
"We're very proud of the food program," Schroer said.
Cactus Club is hiring
A test kitchen of top chefs is working on new dishes, but it's a long process before they are served at Cactus Club restaurants.
The new menu items have to be tested first with customers and then tweaked by those producing the food.
Nothing is put on the menu until all the kinks are worked out and food can be served consistently by all chefs at every Cactus Club, said Schroer, describing a lengthy process that eventually saw the tuna poké bowl put on the menu.
Yesterday (Dec. 7), representatives from the City of Coquitlam also toured the restaurant.
Schroer and LePage hope the community will support the new business when it finally opens, and say the restaurant will be a full partner in the city, training hundreds of young people in a restaurant career, including Red Seal chef training.
If you are interested in a job with the new Cactus Club, you are encouraged to visit the website for details.