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Chef Invites GP Residents to Escape

By Kirsten Goruk

Corey Rankel has one of those jobs with long hours, in a fast-paced environment where he works over a hot stove−and he loves every minute of it.

Rankel is co-owner and chef of Escape Bistro & Wine Bar located on the first floor of 214 Place. The establishment opened in Oct. 2011, and in that time, has earned itself a niche spot in Grande Prairie’s dining world.

“We’re not a franchise so we try to do things that are a bit unique and different. A lot of it is the atmosphere,” Rankel says.

“You can come and enjoy yourself and there’s no pressure that you have to get out; that’s why we don’t take reservations.”

He received his professional cook training at Cariboo College in Kamloops and following graduation worked in hotels in Vancouver and Calgary. The B.C. native and his wife decided to make Grande Prairie their home about 15 years ago, when they were looking to start a family.

Photo by Charlie Healey Photography

“I worked at a couple of restaurants and then about two-and-a-half years ago this opportunity came up. Shannon Andersen (another owner) and I worked together at another restaurant in town. It became available and we were interested in it and decided to do it,” he says.

As head chef, Rankel and his staff have evolved Escape’s menu from its earlier version of wine and appetizers to a full scale menu featuring entrees with a twist. The freedom to play with ingredients and think up fresh ideas is what Rankel loves about his job.

“It’s the creativity and being able to use products right out of the ground to the plate. It’s really nice to take a raw product and at the end of it, create something and see it on the dish. I’d say I’m far from an artist, but it is nice to see what you can make out of a product,” he says.

“I would say that 90 per cent of what we try to do is from scratch. We want to use products that are fresh and be able to actually serve something that tastes nice and different from other places.”

While the kitchen is welcome and familiar territory for him, Rankel does admit that the ownership aspect of Escape is an ongoing learning experience.

“At the beginning it was overwhelming. There was so much to do and you want to make sure that you do everything right and make everybody happy. All of sudden you realize you need to do the things you’re familiar with and go from there to grow,” he says.

Photo by Popik Photography

It seems as though they’ve found the right formula for encouraging that growth, as word continues to spread throughout the city.

“We get to know so many people. So many people come in here and support us, including other local businesses,” Rankel says.

“It’s been like that since day one and it’s just awesome to see. And it makes you want to support them and shop local.”

Photo by Popik Photography

Escape Bistro & Wine Bar fills a void in the Grande Prairie dining scene by offering a big city experience in a small town atmosphere. Escape is featured within the Good Eats Guide, a yearly imageDESIGN publication featuring the best in Grande Prairie’s restaurant scene.

Contributor: Kirsten Goruk

Kirsten received a BA in English from the University of Alberta and then studied journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax. After a few years in journalism she switched gears to pursue a career in communications. When she can, she loves to get in some freelance work and entertain her passion for creative writing.