Chef of the Every Man
Chef Wayne Martin’s Capital Grill and Bar melds west coast finesse with prairie city authenticity.
By Teena Legris
Tucked away in a quiet, suburban neighbourhood strip mall amidst a handful of notable food franchises is the blue calm of Capital Grill and Bar. The prized gem of Charleswood, housed on Roblin Boulevard, pleases keen foodies with an ear to the ground while impressing appreciative diners.
Wayne Martin, the soft-spoken man in chef’s whites, has a notable curriculum vitae, having hop-skipped the world for over 20 years and venturing into entrepreneurialism. After cutting his teeth cooking in exacting kitchens with the very best, Wayne continues to demonstrate a proclivity for the gourmet, tempered with a love of comfort food.
Growing up in Barrie, Ontario, he exhibited natural skill in the kitchen. He embarked on his first kitchen-related job with Four Seasons at the historic Minaki Lodge in the early 1990s, a sous chef gig which proved to be the perfect jumping off point for his career. For the next ten years, Wayne worked ardently at various Four Seasons locations throughout North America – from the small Caribbean island of Nevis, to the southernmost state capital of Austin, Texas.
The highly regarded global hotel chain became his training ground within the food and hospitality industry, one that wasn’t contingent on formal culinary schooling. Experiencing the structure of a corporate hierarchy was crucial to his learning path, requiring patience and endurance.
“I spent long, gruelling 12-hour days, 7 days a week making 200-240 brunches a day.” Chef Wayne says, laughing. “That’s a lot of eggs Benny and hollandaise!”
The determined chef demonstrated a strong aptitude for technical skill and menu-building while managing the chaotic pace of large kitchens and crews – talents that earned Wayne the title of Executive Chef at Four Seasons in Vancouver.
Corporate standards of excellence offered friendly competition with some flexibility to collaborate on certain dishes. Yet, for most chefs with a competitive spirit, there comes a time to break away and try something new. A growing desire to become a restaurateur prompted the decision to leave the Four Seasons franchise in 2006 to open his first restaurant, Crave.
Aiming to fashion “a place where you could come in for a good bottle of wine and a burger,” Wayne secured an ideal location in Vancouver’s trendy Mount Pleasant. Positioned on Main Street amongst the hipster haunts, brewpubs, coffee houses and health-conscious joints, the venture allowed Wayne to make his mark with his own creations, fast-tracking his popularity and piquing the interest of some of the best culinary talent in the food industry.
By the Fall of 2007, the capable chef had partnered with a private investor to open two West Vancouver restaurants: Fraiche in West Vancouver’s British Properties, and Crave Beachside in 2008. The new spots catered to an affluent clientele, stamping his mark on high-end cuisine while garnering accolades during the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards.
Though praised as one of Vancouver’s finest executive chefs, the hectic pace of managing multiple businesses conflicted with his down-to-earth approach. Questioning the direction he was heading, Wayne faced the heart-wrenching decision to leave his beloved rain city – his “longest breakup ever.”
The call of Canada’s heartland had Wayne thinking back on his time in Ontario, and after much deliberation, he closed Crave on Main Street in 2013 and headed to Manitoba the following year.
Winnipeg offered an opportunity to do what he loved outside of the rat race’s break-neck pace.
“I could sense there was something great happening here,” says Wayne. “and I can identify with how genuine Manitobans are. They have an energy I just love.”
In 2015, he opened Capital Grill and Bar in Charleswood, a location he felt was under-serviced. Three years later, Winnipeggers have come from all corners of the city to experience his unique blend of haute technique and unfussy comfort food.
Part of Capital Grill’s appeal is the menu of tantalizing ingredients that anyone can understand and pronounce. The self-professed “chef of the every man” embraces the prairies and serves beloved favourites like bucatini with pesto while elevating basil sauce with the luxe creaminess of ground cashews. Hints of his west coast tenure are sprinkled throughout his menu, but no dish is more closely associated with the beloved Pacific ocean than Wayne’s all-star delight – the generously-sized Dungeness crab cake. Diners dunk and dollop crispy, golden shells with beauteous centres into perfectly roasted garlic aioli, accented by the tartness of apple slaw. His love of seafood, especially salmon and halibut, demonstrates his precise and delicate touch in the kitchen.
Driven by a practical sensibility while delivering profound flavour and meticulous application, Wayne chooses to rest on the strength of his character rather than his laurels.
“When it comes to food and people, image and style are great, but both must have authenticity and substance,” Wayne says, winking and tipping his Winnipeg Jets cap.
With a second Capital Grill and Bar location scheduled to open downtown in 2018, Wayne continues to deliver elegant dishes that are comfortable and accessible to everyone.