THUNDER BAY -- Two childhood friends, Jason MacKenzie and Sean Leveille realized their lifelong dream of opening their own restaurant this year when they bought Cindy Loohoo’s on Court street.
Best friends since the age of six, they had chosen different career paths with MacKenzie becoming a red seal chef and Leveille owning his own business working with engines, but the latter eventually chose food as his profession as well, working alongside MacKenzie at Beaux Daddy.
The two had been talking about owning their own restaurant for a long time, but winning the local ribs contest at Ribfest last year (for Beaux Daddy's) spurred them to make the leap. They named their new restaurant Apple Chipotle’s, after the apple-chipotle barbecue sauce they used for Ribfest.
Their wide menu goes all out to please - from best-seller cheese bombs (with Thunder Oak cheeses) to over a dozen kinds of burgers and “sammies” (including Charlie’s Chipotlenator, a burger with a giant beef patty and all the delicious extras (candied bacon, pickle fries, cheddar cheese and creamy cheese sauce) sandwiched between two breaded and deep fried mac(aroni) patties instead of buns - not for the faint hearted!) Apple Chipotle’s caters to every guilty craving you’ve ever had.
Comfort food for the two owners means plenty of meat, cheese and fats - bacon, butter and duck fat - “we love saucy, gluttonous foods,” MacKenzie admits.
For vegetarians, there are some meat-less (but still very cheesy) options, and if fish is more your style, Apple Chipotle sources local walleye from Canadian Freshwater Fish.
Since they opened on March 1 this year, there have been a few worrisome slow weeks, but business has generally been good. They have participated in Savour Superior, Northern Delights and will take part in Top Chef Thunder Bay this weekend, hoping to get their name out there ahead of the holiday season.
Having gone into debt to renovate the place from floor to ceiling, there have been some sleepless nights worrying about money (he admits that if they had known all the worries that come with opening your own restaurant, they might have waited much longer to do it,) but after seven months, he feels they can ride out the bumps and keep going.
“Being a chef is stressful, but when you’re your own boss, it’s a little different.” MacKenzie says. “If you have a day off, you look forward to coming back to work. Maybe you’re making the same thing every day, but you’re doing it for yourself, your future, so you don’t lose the passion.”