When it comes to living the dream, Megan and Vince Houde can officially say they have been there, done that.
After 10 years of pouring every ounce of perseverance and passion into their popular Cochrane bistro and bar, Olive ‘R Twist, the couple will be closing the doors in less than one month and packing away a decade of life lessons, laughter and memories.
“I have nothing but gratitude,” reflected Vince, who has spent his entire life in the food service industry and wears multiple hats in the restaurant – from chef whites to mixologist.
“I got to do it with my two best friends – the most talented people I know,” he said, with reference to wife and business partner, Megan, and “the most talented chef ever,” Cory Mysyk, who has been with them since day one.
Megan, who works front of house as a server, reflects on her own journey – a bursary-winning business plan from her undergraduate degree at Mount Royal University helped turn her and Vince’s vision into volition.
The trio began years before in the Blue Dog Café (now My Greek Plate) forming what Megan describes as “the perfect synergy” and fuelling a growing passion for creating unique dishes with quality ingredients, locally-sourced as much as possible, in a space all their own.
Maple blueberry bison burgers. Ahi tuna and grilled romaine salads. Baked brie. Triple A prime rib, and Creole mustard chicken.
The list of signature, favourite fare crafted by the trio for Cochrane diners is long.
Looking around the pristine cleanliness of her First Street West location – walls adorned with the distinctive artwork of the late local artist and the couples’ dear friend, Kerry Hunt – Megan said the decision to move on was based on “leaving while you’re on top.”
While there have been many days when the 100-seat venue (including the patio) is packed, the last couple of years have seen a decline in business which Megan attributes to the slumping economy and the recent explosion of chain restaurants.
“In a downturn economy, people go out half the time and everyone is competing for half of the pie,” she explained. “Even if you’re the best, nobody is doing as well as they want to be.”
At its height, the restaurant has employed 25 full and part-time staff. Now that has been pared down to seven, with the trio putting in unrealistic hours and losing out on the little things in life.
When adding up the increasing taxes, minimum wage and food costs, the couple decided the time has arrived for everyone to move onto other dreams.
“We’re not willing to sacrifice the quality of our food or service,” she said, explaining everything was made in house, from the filleting of the meat and fresh fish to homemade dressings, including the stone ground honey mustard vinaigrette, and margins were continuing to shrink.
“I always know where my ingredients come from … I always got the good stuff,” said Mysyk, who loved the creative freedom in the Twist kitchen.
For Megan and Vince, the bittersweet farewell will be bolstered by a deep love and respect for their customers – many of whom have become friends – and a community that has welcomed them and supported them throughout the years.
Stay tuned to their Facebook page for a possible cookbook launch in the coming months. The official last day of business will be May 14 (Mother’s Day) and the restaurant aims to be open for a couple of days afterwards, depending on inventory.