About 5 years ago, while working at an accounting firm to get himself through school, Patrick Asselin realized that a 9-5 stint in the Ottawa business district just wasn’t going to cut it for him. Instead, he decided to pursue a career as a restauranteur. Working in the corporate world of the restaurant industry and then, working for the illustrious Stephen Beckta, Asselin found his qualms about diving head first into the restaurant industry were quickly dispelled. His time spent in restaurants confirmed his aspirations to open his own restaurant and, in May 2012, Asselin’s pursuits will become a reality.
Asselin teamed up with lifelong friend, Nick Ringuette, another devotee to the restaurant industry and, between the two of them, the idea for Brothers Beer Bistro was born. Although 366 Dalhousie is currently under construction, Brothers has been heavily anticipated by the foodie circles of Ottawa. I sat down to chat with Asselin and Ringuette about their journey to the long-awaited opening date and what challenges they have faced along the way.
Kate: When did you realize that, instead of working the regular 9-5, you wanted to own a restaurant?
Patrick: While I was working a 9-5. Not everybody is suited for that. It actually took me a long time the become okay with this lifestyle, and then after I worked a 9-5 job for about a year I was like, I can’t do this.
Nick: For me, I got into the restaurant industry when I moved to Ottawa and right away, I knew I loved it.
Kate: How did you two come together? What about your Executive Chef, Darren Flowers?
Patrick: When Nick and I started this, we had an idea of what we wanted this to be. Then while working with Darren at Play Food and Wine, I thought he would be a very organic fit for the restaurant. I think I asked him if he was interested one night out drinking. We are all really good friends, but so different at the same time and that’s what make it work. Our relationships will be part of the atmosphere here.
Kate: Is there anyone in this industry that you particularly admire, or that helped you along the way?
Patrick: My biggest influence was Stephen Beckta. I left a high paying job, during a recession to go work for him because of his incredible reputation. Without Steve as a consultant and mentor, we wouldn’t be opening in 2012. And I can’t forget Paul Meek and Geoff Skeggs, who helped us foster that passion and grow our namesake. Between the two of them, we wouldn’t have the product, the knowledge or the contacts in the beer world.
Nick: Steve Mitton has great work ethic and is very personable. He has definitely been a huge influence on me. He’s open, helpful, and makes good food taste very good.
Kate: In your effort to open Brothers Beer Bistro, what challenges have you faced?
Patrick: One of the hardest things was managing my expectations of things. That was the biggest hurdle for me. You know, you come up with ideas in your mind and trying to tailor them to reality is difficult. And time management. This is a big project, with no experience, it’s like where to start? Who do you contact first?
Kate: What are you hoping to achieve with the vibe and style of your restaurant?
Patrick: A warm hug. (Chuckles) No, we really want a cool, casual, fun atmosphere. We want someone to come in after a long day at work and get that warm hug I was talking about. After work, people want to go a buddy’s place. We’re that buddy.
Kate: What, when the restaurant opens, will define a triumphant moment for you? That moment where you can say, “Yes, we did it.”
Patrick: The media event, when Nick and I can step back, see the staff doing their thing. Its autonomous at that point. We can step back and be like, “Whoah”.
Kate: Describe Brothers Beer Bistro in three words.
Nick: Friendly. Professional. Fun.
Kate: Tell me a bit about your menu.
Patrick: Comfort food, with a touch of elegance.
Nick: Good food, being prepared simply, yet well refined. Comfort food with a twist.
Kate: How many beers on tap? In the bottle?
Patrick: 16 on tap, 1 cask and 60 in bottle.
If you had to give up cheese or beer for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Patrick & Nick (almost simultaneously): Cheese!
Patrick: When monks fast, the only thing they are allowed to have is beer. Because it is liquid bread. Beer can sustain me.
Kate: If you were to dine at your own restaurant, what would be the first dish you order, and what beer?
Nick: On any day given of the week, any single thing on the menu. And any beer on the menu. Things are going to be changing constantly , but i have 100% faith in our ability to deliver.
With that kind of confidence in stride, Brothers Beer Bistro is headed for a steady path of success in the year to come. Their plans for an unmatched menu and vast selection of domestic beers will deem Brothers the kind of institution that the Byward Market has been begging for, to keep foodies and brew masters alike hoppy.