Q&A With Kurtis Kolt

December 18, 2008.

Each week, Scout poses 60 questions to a local who has made life in BC that much more interesting. They pick and choose, with the minimum response being 20 answers.

Kurtis Kolt is the General Manager at Gastown’s Salt Tasting Room and has been in the Vancouver wine and food industry for the better part of two decades. Working alongside legends at The Fish House, Beach Side Cafe, CinCin and Liberty Wines honed his front of house skills, food knowledge and wine experience. He is certified by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, The Wine Academy of Spain and is currently enrolled in the Winemaking program at UC Davis. Kurtis’ managing and wine-directing experience has launched two local restaurants, Main Street’s Aurora Bistro and Gastown’s Salt Tasting Room onto the international culinary map, securing many appearances in both local and international print media and television. Both restaurants won gold as Best New Restaurant in the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards and were named one of Canada’s Top Ten New Restaurants by enRoute Magazine in their respective years. Along with receiving a Gold Award for his much-acclaimed wine program at Salt Tasting Room from the Vancouver International Wine Festival, Kurtis has received the Premier Crew Service Award from Vancouver magazine. He’s also not half as serious as all of this makes him sound.

Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: Gene (coffee spot at Main/7th). Proximity to downtown. Abundance of cheap eats.

The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: My (roughly) annual Big Mac. An umami wonder.

Drink you’ll never have again: A chocolate milk called Tayo. It’s made from potatoes and it’s awful.

Bartender who could sell you anything: Sophie Taverner, Josh Pape, Jay Jones, Mark Brand, Nick Devine, David Wolowidnyk or Wendy McGuinness.

Book you’re reading: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, McSweeney’s Issue #28, plus the Sunday New York Times is religion for me.

Last place traveled: Yaletown. We had an overnight stay at the Opus Hotel and it was fantastic.

Biggest fear: Being without my wife, Wendy. We’ve decided it’s best if we die together when we’re very old in a plane crash or something.

Your paternal grandfather’s personal story: Jack A. Kolt grew up in a small Manitoba farm town and worked on the Canada Pacific Railway. He started the Canadian Polish Athletic Club as a way of getting disadvantaged youth into sports and involved in their community. His motto was “Building boys is better than mending men.” He led an orchestra and started my father on a very successful career as a musician and a teacher. He has a street named after him in Winnipeg. He was devilishly handsome, smoked cigars, and dressed like a dandy. He was a voracious reader, an avid gardener and had a great sense of humour. He lived to be 89 and passed away peacefully after a casual and warm visit with my parents. His funeral was standing room only. I cried way more than I expected to.

Best bar stool in the city: Chambar, tucking into a Mussels Congolaise with a fresh glass of Stella Artois.

What are you proud of: Being a part of an exciting, dynamic, progressive wine and food scene in Vancouver with so many fantastic, passionate peers and colleagues.

Best fine dining restaurant in the city: Vij’s is the best restaurant in this city, regardless of dining level…

Food your mom makes better than anyone: These crazy Sour Cream Cookies that she found in an old Mennonite cookbook that are unbelievably delicious.

Local person you admire most: Personally: my wife. Professionally: Barb Philip MW. Culturally: Rich Hope.

The thing you’re most ashamed of: Whenever I’ve let my wife down.

Best concert experience ever: Yo La Tengo w/ Lambchop in Hoboken, New Jersey during our first trip ever to New York.

First memory: Being in nursery school, and sneaking into the church it was attached to. I’d never been in a church before. There was a janitor at the opposite end and I assumed he was God.

Quality you admire most in yourself: I’m pretty easygoing and very rarely angry.

Album that first made you love music: No clue, but it would have been something of my parents’ when I was really young. Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, The Mamas and The Papas, something like that. I always hate it when people say something like The Smiths, The Pixies or The Velvet Underground to give themselves cred. It’s like, REALLY? You were into The Pixies when you were 4, huh?

The career path you considered but never followed: I wanted to get into the non-profit sector, something literary and culturally based, a community centre of sorts. I got close, but it became too risky, finance and fundraising-wise. I met too many people doing similar things who struggled and were tired and had completely lost out on their life-balance and time with loved ones.

Biggest hope: You know, I’m just so happy Obama got elected. Clung to that one for four years.


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