– Words by Toby Tannas Photography by Lia Crowe
It’s a busy lunch hour at Train Station Pub. Every table is alive with food and banter, including the one I sit at with executive chef April Roy. She’s at home here, just as comfortable in a corner booth as in the kitchen.
“I’ve had many positions within Train Station’s four walls,” explains April. “I started as kitchen manager and then rotated into the executive chef role. Now I’m operating partner, running the business on both sides: culinary, as well as front of house.”
It’s in the kitchen, though, where April’s passion for food is fuelled. She’s developed the Train Station Pub (TSP) menu beyond what you would expect from a neighbourhood pub. Her secret sauce is an approachable relationship with flavour, seasoned by years of intense culinary training.
“With my background at wineries and high-end hotels, I bring that type of vibe and put it on a pub plate. It’s not about technique; it’s about flavour.”
Trained at The Culinary Institute of Canada, April has worked in some of the Okanagan’s most revered kitchens, including Manteo, The Eldorado and the famous Terrafina at Hester Creek. Her career train jumped track nine years ago when it pulled into TSP. April says it was destiny.
“I used to spend a lot of time in Kelowna. I loved the look of the Train Station before it was a pub. I actually said, ‘one day, I’m going to work there.’ I kid you not; I’ve said that since day one. We would drive past this building on the way to Prospera to watch my brother play hockey 20 years ago!”
(Fun fact: April’s brother, Nolan Yonkman, played with the Kelowna Rockets in the late ‘90s.)
Like the chef herself, TSP is friendly and comfortable and the food is full of substance.
“We’re still producing hotel-grade, beautiful dishes here. It’s elevated pub food, so it doesn’t always have to feel like a ‘night out.’ It’s ‘hang out’ food with that social aspect as well.”
TSP definitely has that “where everybody knows your name” vibe. Burgers, as you’d expect, are at the core of the menu, but what April has chosen to call them is unexpected.
“We have the Bun-Jovi Burger and the Yellowstone. They are quirky names that are fun to come up with.”
April’s Dr. Seuss-ical approach to writing the menu is another creative outlet designed to amuse her and give diners a chuckle. Strip it down, though, and success is ultimately determined by what the food tastes like. From the All Aboard Shareables to First Class Bowls and Plates to End of the Line Desserts, April has carefully crafted each dish to reflect her love of flavour with a nod to her gourmet roots.
“My thought process comes from the place of ‘what would I eat, what do I crave?’ Then I combine that with what’s new and upcoming—since there are definitely fads in food.”
A current menu favourite is the Prawn Alfredo.
“It’s beautiful prawns in an Alfredo sauce with fresh peas, sautéed ham, lots of garlic and lemon. It’s really fresh for summer.”
Another star entree that’s nestled among the pub staples is the Blackened Salmon.
“It’s rubbed with our house-made Cajun spice, grilled to order with fresh Mediterranean vegetables, marinated cucumber, fresh corn salsa and stone fruit chutney. It’s a fusion of different countries. You get a full flavour profile with the comfort of sitting in a pub.”
TSP is a hotspot these days with reservations recommended at peak times. April’s menu has no doubt upped the popularity of the eatery, but the neighbourhood has also grown up around TSP. A new crop of breweries and pubs have made Kelowna’s north end a foodie destination.
“That has helped tremendously as far as people being aware of who we are now. Businesses help businesses, so we’re in that little community. If our neighbours are busy, they send people here and vice versa. We help each other out.”
TSP has a sister restaurant across town in the Landmark District. Mid-Town Station is also under April’s charge. It has its own distinct vibe that requires a different approach to the menu.
“We have more of a business crowd in the Landmark District. They’re looking for that great, quick, healthy lunch. It’s more farm-to-fork at Mid-Town. We have so many amazing local farmers and producers. I always work to incorporate fresh, seasonal flavours at both restaurants.”
Managing two kitchens keeps April on her toes, but with a strong core staff she is able to spend most of her time exploring her culinary creativity.
“We change the menu twice a year. I’m always thinking about flavours. If I’m relaxing, I’ll often have an epiphany moment and I’ll write it down. It just happens like that.”
And just like that, my time with this bubbly chef is almost up. I’ve saved my favourite question for last: “What’s in your fridge at home?”
April doesn’t hesitate.
“If you open my fridge, you’ll find cheese. There’s some sort of cheese in there always, tons of hot sauces and mustard.”
Cheese and condiments! Sounds like the beginning of the next great April Roy culinary creation.