40 units across Canada
30 variations of poutine
during rush periods, a single unit with 2 registers serves more than 180 servings of made-to-order poutine in 1 hour
Kraft on Craft—
Ryan Smolkin Takes
the Kraft Challenge
The Chief Poutine Officer at Smoke's Poutinerie finds inspiration with Kraft
Poutine is a national treasure that's been around since the fifties, but it is finding new life on today's foodservice landscape. Hailing from Quebec and now common across the country, it's a favourite among late-night snackers, street-food lovers and burger-and-fries diners. Unspeakably craveable, classic poutine sees fries topped with cheese curds and chicken gravy. Take that crowd-pleasing, wonderfully familiar comfort-food base, offer a customizable array of toppings and what do you get? You get a new-ish chain called Smoke's Poutinerie, which has gone from one unit in Toronto in 2009 to more than 40 units across Canada in 2013, with plans to push down into the U.S. market later this year.
"Poutine is a side-dish staple, but we moved into the full-meal category," says Ryan Smolkin, founder and chief poutine officer at Smoke's Poutinerie, headquartered in Ajax, Ontario. Indeed, Smoke's Poutinerie offers more than 30 types of poutine. Starting with hand-cut yellow-fleshed fries, Montreal cheese curds and housemade brown gravy, the restaurant serves up a staggering array of hearty builds—from a Double Pork Poutine (chipotle pulled pork, double-smoked bacon and signature gravy) to a Steak Fajita Poutine (flat iron steak, roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, salsa and sour cream).
Our team at Kraft Foodservice saw the menu at Smoke's Poutinerie. We then challenged Ryan Smolkin to create a recipe using a Kraft product. He came back to us with passion and enthusiasm, and created the BBQ Mac 'N' Cheese Poutine. "This could easily have been called The University Special because it really appeals to that college diner in all of us, who loves their KD," says Smolkin. He starts with the classic trio of fries, curds and gravy, then adds cooked Kraft Dinner Frozen Macaroni & Cheese mixed with Bull's-Eye Bold Original Barbecue Sauce. Grilled chicken and bacon finish this dish. "Bull's-Eye is a smokey, bold barbecue sauce," he says. "The flavour is unbelievable. No add-ins or touch-ups necessary." One of the brand markers for Smoke's Poutinerie is its use of top quality products. "Using Bull's-Eye extends our efforts to offer premium ingredients to our customers. It's something we can highlight." And why KD? "Nobody can compete with the original," says Smolkin. "I wouldn't even think of putting a knock-off on our menu. It's the cheesiest. It's the best."
Indeed, Smolkin was so smitten with the BBQ Mac 'N' Cheese Poutine, he added it as a six-week LTO across all units. "We got great feedback from all franchisees," he says. "A couple of them want to make it their regional signature dish. I think it was so successful because it's got wow factor, and because our poutine offers them great value."
Although Smoke's Poutinerie says its sweet spot is the late-night snacking category, it's also finding great success in the lunch and dinner day parts. "Half of our business is coming in at the traditional lunch and dinner hours," he says. "That was a surprise to us. I think it's because we're selling an experience that's far removed from the everyday."
If you were sent to a desert island, what 3 ingredients would you take with you?
Fries, curds and gravy.
What's your favourite kitchen tool?
What is your favourite Kraft product?
I've gotta go KD. Add in sausage, chicken finger chunks, salsa and sour cream. I make it for friends when they come over. It's phenomenal.