Controversial Kitchen, indeed.

For several years, I volunteered as an A/V tech for Earthsave BC’s annual Taste of Health. Though not a vegetarian, I initially became involved to expand my knowledge in live stage management, and was careful not to wear my leather jacket when attending meetings. Though I learned little about live sound, I learned a ton sitting through dozens of seminars and cooking demos about organic food, and a ton more about my precious McDonalds habit.

Controversial Kitchen aims for the niche I needed filled; organic, omnivorous food. Owned by Barbara Schellenberg, who also owns North Vancouver’s Ethical Kitchen, you’d expect her second restaurant to meet modest expectations. Especially at 10 dollars a sandwich.

On the way in, we were greeted by a nice woman carrying a baby in a diaper as she stood at the register. One doesn’t need to work in the restaurant industry (as I have) to know that if you’re going to be a toddler in the kitchen, you’re going to have to put on some pants. And not attempt to eat the sharpie on the counter. Maybe I should have turned around then. Once we’d ordered, I noticed the lady at the register pass off the baby, hand me my change, and grab a spatula.

“Wait,” she remembered.

“First, I need to rinse off my hands for three seconds without using soap. And I can leave that spatula right there in the food prep area while I start making their meals. I mean, it’s not like money and diapers are THAT dirty.”

Oh no.

Once we seated ourselves near the window, we got our food; a hearty sandwich for myself and some kind of egg concoction for my girlfriend. The food itself was decent enough, but we were put off by restaurant patrons seated outside who were smoking while they chatted; all well within 6 metres from the door, in violation of the city’s smoking bylaw [pdf]. I didn’t order my “nutrient-dense” sandwich with a side of cigarette smoke, thanks. I didn’t really expect anyone to stop them, but I also didn’t expect Fiona, the manager (and Barbara’s sister), to join them for a smoke herself.

I hope these guys can clean their act up. Until then, you’ll find me at Nuba. Or Radha. Or just about anywhere else.

3 Comments so far

  1. Kirsten (unregistered) on June 8th, 2010 @ 4:13 am

    Yeah, I didn’t have the greatest experience there. For those prices, I would expect the chicken to not be microwave-chewy. Food was bland, staff was disinterested. One visit was enough for me.

  2. Bryan (unregistered) on June 26th, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

    I had almost the same experience last week. No baby in sight, but disinterested and surly staff and food that wouldn’t have gotten a passing grade from my grade 12 cooking teacher. The cigarette smoke was disgusting. Thanks but I will stick to Radha, Annapurna and the Naam.

  3. Carrie (unregistered) on June 27th, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

    On my recent visit, the manager and the only other staff member took a cigarette break out front too. The cig smoke was ridiculous (why couldn’t they go out BACK, one at a time, so they didn’t have to both run into the restaurant when someone wandered in?) and the cook preparing the food did the aforementioned 3 second rinse-no-soap; she didn’t wash her hands at all. 100% gross.

    We also weren’t asked if we wanted anything to drink, whether to purchase or just a glass of water.

    This was on a sunny Saturday — every other restaurant on Commercial was packed, but the aptly named Controversial Kitchen had 3 patrons. And two separate parties walked in and walked out (probably after not being able to find the menu) during the 45 minutes or so we were there.

    Our sandwiches were actually incredibly delicious, but not after the cigarette smoke hit them. And after witnessing the non-washing of cigarette hands….. yuck.

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