Mike DeGroot is a familiar face around Assiniboine Park. For close to a decade, Mike has been a valued and influential member of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s culinary team, showcasing his creative talents in the kitchen at the Park Café and as a member of the Park’s stellar banquets team.
This spring, Mike has taken on new responsibility as the Head Chef at the Park Café, an opportunity and challenge he welcomes with enthusiasm and infectious optimism.
Like many people in the restaurant industry, Mike didn’t always dream of becoming a chef. It started with a job that turned into an interest, grew into a passion, and launched a successful career.
“I started working in kitchens as a teenager, trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” said Mike. “I had a realization one day while I was cutting university classes to pick up shifts at the restaurant that maybe I was putting my focus in the wrong place with my education.”
Soon after that moment of self-discovery, Mike enrolled in the Red River College culinary arts program. After graduating, he spent several years working at The Gates on Roblin under the guidance of fellow chef Heiko Duerhsen.
When Heiko came to work at Assiniboine Park, Mike followed and was in the kitchen the day the Park Café welcomed its very first customers. Mike has also worked at Sydney's at The Forks, an experience that helped fuel his drive to continually develop, enhance, and refine his skills.
“I love the kitchen. The long hours are exciting to me and the characters it attracts are my favourite kind of people,” said Mike. “And I love seeing people enjoy a great meal. Without fail, delicious food makes me happy!”
Like any good culinary student, Mike is influenced by the classic French style, but also finds inspiration in the varied cuisines of countries around the world. Driven by these sources of inspiration, Mike is always looking for opportunities to add a fresh, unique or seasonal twist to popular or traditional dishes.
Mike also hopes to build on the Park Café’s commitment to using fresh ingredients produced in-house or supplied by local entrepreneurs.
“I’m really proud of the experience we offer at the Park Café,” said Mike. “Looking ahead, we’re going to continue to build the Park Café into a place where the food shines bright on its own, revisit and reinvent some of the traditional menu items that made us great, while making pretty much everything in house, with care, and always striving to create delicious and inventive food.”
Just for Fun: Foodie Rapid Fire with Chef Mike
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Guilty pleasure? Dumplings, instant ramen and a poached egg.
Favourite foodie travel destination? Mexico, without a doubt. Can’t wait to go back to Mexico City.
Favourite breakfast? The Nook eggs benedict, on the patio with some friends.
If we’re buying, you’re having? Dinner at Deer and Almond followed by a cocktail extravaganza at Sous Sol.
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla