HicksBiz Blog

HICKS ON BIZ: Hey, media, stop picking on Big Oil BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014

It’s a hoary old cliché, but so true.

In journalism, there’s no such thing as objectivity.

Bias hangs out on every corner.

It’s so darned obvious in the mountains of verbiage expended on .02% of Canada’s boreal forest surrounding Fort McMurray, the oilsands.

Note the bias: I throw in the fact the oilsands take up less than one-fifth of one percent of the boreal forest. The underlying message: The oilsands are NOT destroying Canada’s wilderness.

That one little fact, slipped in, pretty well tells you where this commentator is coming from.

The reality is this city, hence yours and my livelihoods, is highly dependent on oilsands generated wealth. So I support oilsands development – as long as the environmental rules are followed, and the rules get tougher to the point of miniscule or zero tolerance when technology permits.

Most commentators will not admit to a bias. But it’s so easy to tell.

Those adamantly opposed to oilsands development call the oilsands the “tar sands.”

Gee, what was your first clue? Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Fine dining at Fort Edmonton Park BY GRAHAM HICKS , EDMONTON SUN POSTED: TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2014

It still remains a culinary secret, even though Johnson’s Café has been open for over 10 years in the Hotel Selkirk at Fort Edmonton Park.

Why would this very good dining room, in the height of summer, only have a few tables occupied on a lovely Thursday evening?

Location, location, location.

It’s the café’s biggest strength and weakness. The historic Hotel Selkirk is in Fort Edmonton Park, accessible by a side road after the park closes. The site is so beautiful, it’s Jasper without the three-hour drive.

But destination diners don’t think of Johnson’s Café. And if they did, they’d be unsure how to get there and uncertain of its hours.

This will change. Fort Edmonton Park soon plans to be open year-round with upgraded services. Leading the changes is new food services supervisor and master chef Jasmin Kobajica, who’s already raised the bar on park food.
Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: Environmental awareness has arrived BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014

Something’s happened out there in the past year.

Sustainability, environmental awareness, saving the planet has truly arrived.

The scoffers are getting older and retiring. The doubters are coming around – maybe not on global warming, but certainly on recycling, waste reduction and conservation in general. For Gen Y, green is a given.

“Social licence” is now one powerful business tool. Without societal acceptance, mega-construction projects cannot move ahead.

We have in our midst a young social entrepreneur who is either a world-class visionary using business to create a sustainable planet or he’s one amazing promoter. Or maybe he’s a little of both.

Joey Hundert, 33, is founder and CEO of both Sustainival, a travelling midway with all its rides running on diesel fuel made from used cooking oils and Sustainitech, a company working in partnership with the Wood Buffalo regional municipality to grow food and farmed fish in self-contained, insulated shipping containers using processes known as aquaponics and aeroponics.

Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: It's all about the Meat BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: TUESDAY, JULY 08, 2014

Meat, recently opened in Edmonton's Old Strathcona district in Alberta, Canada,  is one of the best, fully thought-through restaurants I’ve had the pleasure of entering.
It’s full of contradictions. Yet, from the initial impression, to décor, to food and menu, it’s one delicious whole.
Whoever has heard of a BBQ smokehouse parading as a tea room!
This slightly dainty, new-age establishment is serving up mounds of mouth-watering beef brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken! It’s the opposite to the stereotypic “y’all chow down now, y’hear?” smokehouse. In fact, there’s not a smokehouse cliché to be seen.

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HICKS ON BIZ: Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund used, abused BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: FRIDAY, JULY 04, 2014

Had successive Albertal governments stuck to their guns and kept growing the Alberta Heritage Fund from energy royalties rather than simply spending the cash, the Heritage Fund today would be worth north of $100 billion, easily able to contribute a steady - say $10 billion a year – stream of revenue into general government revenues while continuing to grow. Instead, it's stuck at $17 billion.

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HICKS ON BIZ: A fix for the Temporary Foreign Workers' program BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 2014

So, quite suddenly, Alberta’s (lower-end) job market has been thrown into turmoil by the federal government’s toughening up of its Temporary Foreign Workers Program. It’s been long known that the program has/had serious flaws: An unscrupulous hotelier, for instance, bringing in a foreign worker in a waiter category, then transferring him/her to housekeeping at (lower) waiter wages. Even in worker-short Alberta, the Alberta Federation of Labour says companies are hiring foreign workers (at lower wages) when Albertans are available. Still, it was surprising how the feds, despite glaring labour shortages in Western Canada, were so abrupt in changing the current system. Major, major abuse of the Temporary Foreign Workers’ program must have been happening for Employment Minister Jason Kenney to move so quickly. How Alberta brings its jobs-to-workers ratio back into balance is beyond the scope of this column. Obviously the politicians have to do something. The country will suf ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Tasty Tomato is all about classic comfort food BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: TUESDAY, JULY 01, 2014

Tasty Tomato Italian Eatery 14233 Stony Plain Road 780-452-3594 www.tastytomato.ca Open evenings, with lunch Thursday and Friday. Closed Sundays Food: 3 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 3 of 5 stars If it ain’t broke, why fix it? I can’t bear witness, as last week was my first visit to the Tasty Tomato Italian Eatery. But by all reports, not much has changed in 20 years, other than Angelo and Mirella Amendola are older, and son Joe is now a full partner in the family-run restaurant. To which Angelo would shrug his shoulders and say, why change? The restaurant is full on weekends and obviously has a loyal clientele that spans generations. Tasty Tomato has a comfy ‘80s feel. It’s not the least bit trendy, but is in no need of a makeover. Which also describes the menu — as classic Canadian-Italian as you’ll find, with 18 pasta selections, veal and chicken entrees, starter tomato salads, calamari, eggplant, escargot and brusc ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Food at Yianni's the best it's ever been BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED: TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014

Yianni’s Backyard Estiatorion (Restaurant) 5524 Calgary Trail South 780-758-6161 Yiannistaverna.ca Seven days a week, lunch and dinner Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, just food – basic $40, loaded $70 Graham Hicks 780-707-6379 Yianni Psalios is such a larger-than-life character, such a dominating personality within the 12-plus restaurants he’s owned and operated over three decades, that we forget he’s one fine chef. He’s owned restaurants big and small, always Greek, always under the Koutouki or Yianni’s banner. This time around, while daughter and son-in-law Dina and Chris St. Denis run Koutouki 124th Street, and son Theo operates the Koutouki Little Village food truck, the patriarch has gone back to small. Yianni’s Backyard is a 50-seater on Calgary Trail for ease of address, but on the corner of a tree-lined avenue. Along its side, a fenced and secluded patio is a slice of shady ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: Alberta's Premier Hancock working hard behind the scenes, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED: FRIDAY, JUNE 20, 2014

What we are watching in Alberta, Canada, under interim Premier Dave Hancock is quite unique, yet will never be fully reported.

Hancock is a self-described “policy wonk.”

He’s never had a big political ego. His interest in government centers on policy. “It’s where,” he says cheerfully, “I do my best work!”

Thrust by circumstances into the premier’s role, until a new party leader/premier is elected September 6, Hancock is having a great time behind the scenes. He’s tackling long deferred policy initiatives, left simmering on the back-burner while the Conservative government was preoccupied with its internal political drama.

Alberta’s “innovation” system serves as an example.

Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Indulgence is grazing for charity BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED: TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2014

It’s speed-dating with food.

Seventeen restaurants, 22 food producers/farmers/ranchers, 18 wineries/breweries.

All in one vast banquet hall, the Delta South Ballroom.

Last week’s Indulgence event in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, arms the ticket holder with a program/guide, one wine glass and a cute plate clip for the wine glass, the theory being plate and wine can be held in one hand at the stand-up event, whilst eating and drinking with the other.

For 15 years, Indulgence — “a Canadian epic of food and wine” — has been a fund-and-friend raiser for the women’s volunteer Junior League of Edmonton organization.

It’s a big, let’s-get-acquainted evening, connecting chefs, farmers and discerning eaters. And it’s popular! This year, the 400 tickets sold out within hours. Read the rest of entry »
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