By Nicole Murphy
An Edmonton chef who cooked for the Queen and was the lead chef for Team Canada in the 2012 London Olympics is back to work in his studio kitchen, KITCHEN by Brad, after life threatening health problems.
NAIT ‘88 Marketing alumnus Brad Smoliak knew he wanted to be a chef when he was six years old. He went to NAIT for business to help him in an area he felt he was weaker in.
Smoliak learned how to cook from spending time with his two babas growing up. He was sick as a child, born with heart problems. This lead to a lot of quality time at home learning the fundamentals of cooking.
At the beginning of this year Smoliak was in late stage heart failure. He needed to be hospitalized for an undetermined amount of time and his employee Tracy Zizek, a NAIT ‘02 Culinary Arts alumnus, stepped up and ran the studio kitchen.
At this time they had been working closely for four years at the unique culinary studio he created that caters private events, cooking classes, kitchen parties and develops retail commercial food products.
With only five staff members, the closely knit business continued to run smoothly.
“You see people in the hospital and one of the things they are most stressed about is their work,” said Zizek. “I would say the only thing I ever thought about stress-wise with work is: ‘Did I double book something before I left?’ ‘Did I forget to tell Tracy something?’ But as far as the running and the operations, it was no worries whatsoever. We have a great team.”
Zizek also grew up knowing she wanted to be a chef and spent her childhood helping her grandma cook. It is no wonder that the experience at KITCHEN By Brad is all about hospitality, connection and making people feel at home.
“We want you to have a classic hospitality experience,” said Zizek. “We want you to know when you come in, if you’ve organized it with us, we’re going to know your name. We want you to be as comfortable as possible. You’re going to enjoy some great food and possibly some great entertainment from time to time from Brad and myself.”
While Smoliak was away he had minimal requests.
“My comment was no tofu, no pink curtains and have fun with it,” said Smoliak.
Zizek was as prepared as she could be and stepped up to the challenge.
“You trust your gut and hope it turns out, and if it doesn’t you’ll hear from someone eventually,” said Zizek.
Smoliak is back in the kitchen now with a Ventricular Assist Device that he must wear in order to have blood continuously pumped throughout his body. Although this device gives him more energy, the long days in the kitchen are behind him. What is most important to him is a balanced life.
Both Smoliak and Zizek are looking forward to creating exceptional culinary dishes and connective experiences for the Edmonton community.