Graham Marceau’s pizzeria gains attention of popular food program
BY JOHN CHICK
Special to the VOICE
When Graham Marceau left Fonthill for B.C.’s Lower Mainland, part of it was for fun. He lived in his sister’s basement for a year.
“I was like 19, I was kind of just looking for a west coast adventure,” he told the Voice earlier this month. “You know, snowboarding, golf.”
More than a dozen years later, Marceau is the owner and operator of a trendy pizzeria and bar, Corduroy Pie Company, in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood. That trendy quotient was upped recently when the popular TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and its host Guy Fieri, along with his famed hair and goatee, stopped by to profile the restaurant.
“We were actually away in Barbados,” Marceau said. “They had told us they were thinking about doing an episode, but then it was radio silence for like three months. And then the last day of our vacation, I got a call from one of the producers, saying, ‘Hey we’re at Vancouver airport, when are you back?’ So we basically flew home, slept for like four hours and they were at the front door of our restaurant to start filming at 6 o’ clock in the morning.”
That was in January. The finished product aired on the Food Network Canada in late September, showcasing some of Corduroy’s unique takes on pizzas, including bacon and potato, and bacon and brussel sprout pies.
Marceau credits his focus on pizza to his early years in Fonthill.
“Coming from Niagara … with some of my family included, such a dense Italian-Canadian population, I think we just got used to having really good pizza and sub shops,” he said. “We grew up eating Colombo’s Pizza and Mossimo’s Pizza. And I moved here and the first thing I noticed outside of the fact the ponds didn’t freeze and there was no pond hockey, was that there was no good Italian food. It was all Numero Uno, Megabite pizza … which is fine, but I was definitely missing the more traditional Italian-Canadian pizza.”
It should be noted that classical Italian pizza differs somewhat from the Italian-Canadian/American pizzas Marceau is referring to. In Italy, pies are often cooked in wood-burning ovens. Here, the pizzeria style usually uses a gas deck oven. The taste is different, then add in the contemporary trend of fusion cooking — i.e. adding non-traditional ingredients to pizza — and voila, Marceau has a popular eatery in a highly-competitive restaurant market that he says sees “the same couple of hundred people every month.”
Marceau went to chef school in Niagara-on-the-Lake, apprenticing at Peller Estates Winery. He also worked at the former Zest Restaurant on Pelham Street, “which was the only kind of higher-end place there at the time,” he said.
“Growing up in Fonthill, being close to the Niagara environment — the hot summers, the stone fruit, all the wineries everywhere— it’s an easy place to be inspired to want to cook.”
From a business standpoint, Marceau says that a pizzeria also made sense, even with Vancouver undergoing what he called a “pizza boom.”
“Before I opened my own shop, I had the opportunity to open a couple other pizza shops for some other restaurant groups for development chefs,” he said. “So I learned about the numbers, learned about the food cost aspects — pizza has great margins — and then was presented with the opportunity to open this place.”
As far as “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” goes, Marceau is still unsure how he landed on the show. The 32-year-old said that the program does not take applications, but instead relies on patron recommendations.
“We’ve been trying to figure it out,” he said. “We’ve asked all our good regulars and nobody had done it. The only thing I can think of in our neighbourhood there’s a lot of Airbnbs, with a fair bit of tourists staying there. And a lot of them have guest books where people recommend places.”
If you’re headed to Vancouver, Corduroy Pie Company is located at 758 West 16th Avenue.
From the looks of Food Network Canada’s website, the next airing of Marceau’s episode, “Sausage, Shawarma and Scaloppini,” will be at 2:30 PM on November 8.