March 2005 Edition
The Flavour of Canada

Corey Rankel, Chef

 

Jake’s Down South

 

For southern Cajun Cuisine in the near north, look no further than Jake’s Down South, Grande Prairie’s answer to the spicy hot flavours you’d expect to find in the heart of a New Orleans eatery.

 

Established in 2004, Jake’s Down South is a new concept for the owners of the Lions Den Pub and Kakwa Catering. “There was a café next door to the Lions Den Pub, which was a cafeteria-style set up. We bought the café, and underwent complete renovations to develop the Jake’s Down South concept,” says Todd Zahorodniuk General Manager and one of the owners of Jake’s Down South.

 

“We’ve replicated the look and feel of a New Orleans streetscape, including a cobblestone walkway, and a sidewalk café in the centre of the restaurant, with booths all around the walkway complete with traditional lamp posts,” says Zahorodniuk. “And our walls are painted with an abstract mural of New Orleans style buildings.”

 

The unique ambience is complemented by an equally unique menu.

 

“We have a unique menu because we are not a franchise. We can experiment more and change or add menu items quicker to suit our market,” says Zahorodniuk.

 

It’s all part of being responsive to the needs of the customer, as well as providing those down-home Cajun dishes that people have come to expect at Jake’s.

 

Chef Corey Rankel and his team create all sorts of innovative menu items including such favourites as Blackened Cajun Catfish, Coconut Curry Shrimp, Jambalaya, Crawfish Stew, Mozzarella Bruschetta, and Tequila Lime Chile Rubbed Chicken.

 

A graduate of Cariboo College in Kamloops, B.C. and the apprenticeship program at Chateau Whistler Resort; Rankel has worked with a variety of chefs. And he says he enjoys seeing what can be created with food and continues to be amazed by the results.

 

“I get inspired when specialty items are available as I enjoy trying something new and exciting. I tell new cooks that cooking isn’t just about flipping burgers, its about using their creativity and about having fun while they’re learning,” says Rankel.

 

“At Jake’s we have great talent. The staff are very good, and we’re all team players who jump in where necessary.”

 

“It’s a challenge creating a new restaurant concept: developing menus, pricing, undergoing trial runs, as well as training,” says Rankel. “We’ve relied on Sysco from the very start as a one-stop shopping source. Our Marketing Associate, Brent Barrett, is always helping us find better products. He keeps us up-to-date on pricing, and every visit we look at what’s working and what’s not, and then Brent looks for a solution.”

 

Offering Cajun Cuisine is something new in Grande Prairie, and it’s a learning curve for both staff and customers.

 

“We’re growing with our customers. As their tastes evolve, we can let our imaginations go wild,” says Rankel. “The trick is to get everyone comfortable with our menu – both staff and customers. Ultimately the menu at Jake’s allows diners to sample big city flavours right here in Grande Prairie.” u