Interview with Peter Girges

Restaurateur | Vancouver

I sat down with Peter recently in his Cento Notti Restaurant in Yaletown and talked about his restaurants and his love for people and socializing. Peter grew up in Toronto working in his father’s restaurant, when he was 11 years old he used to peel potatoes in the kitchen after school, he then worked in the restaurant for a few years learning the ropes. At 19 he opened his first restaurant with his uncle called Brownstone, he then opened Solo. He came to Vancouver about 10 years ago and was co-owner of Glowbal Group and a couple of years ago he went out on his own and started Rocksglass where he is co-owner and President and now operates Cento Notti, Opus Bar, Chinois Restaurant and Pierre’s Lounge all in Yaletown.

As a kid growing up, what did you want to be?

A firefighter, I even had a firefighter hat when I was a kid. I then thought of becoming a lawyer.

What drives you to succeed with your different restaurants?

Trying to be different but not outside of the circle. Delivering the best experience people would come back for (ambience, service and food).

Would you identify with being an entrepreneur or restaurateur foremost?

I’ll say I am a bit more of an entrepreneur, as I have an entrepenurial spirit and have the ability to do something and see the tangible results and be responsible for it neither good or bad.

What are the most challenging elements of running restaurants?

So many moving parts in a restaurant from filling up a room, to consistency, the way your staff feels, so many variables that effect the experience than anything out there. Managing situations constantly and consistency.

Currently all your restaurant interests are in Yaletown, why Yaletown?

Since moving from Toronto I lived in Yaletown and I like this neighborhood and I have seen this neighborhood go up and down in the almost 10 years I have lived in Vancouver. Every single element style of the city ends up in Yaletown. Recognizable for out of towners as well.

What do you like to do in your off time outside of business?

  • Wine and dine
  • Being with friends
  • Watching hockey, soccer, golf etc
  • Bike riding
  • Cooking for friends

I understand that you support kids in our community, tell us how you got involved with the charity you are currently supporting and what you are doing to enhance their lives?

Sarah Blyth is a good friend of mine and I asked her one day what I can do (an article I saw talked about the under privileged kids in Vancouver being the highest in Canada). As a business owner you do have a sense of responsibility. It started with a Christmas drive at the Strathcona Community Centre, finding out that hundreds of kids go home every night with nothing to eat, so we feed them a few times a week. It is great to do stuff at Christmas but people need to eat all year round. The Strathcona Community Centre has an amazing group of volunteers working with these kids doing great things.

What is your favourite dish in one of your own restaurants? And in which restaurant?

Spaghetti Bolognese at Cento Notti

What do you like to eat when eating outside of your own restaurants?

Italian and also local fresh seafood

What are your Favourite restaurants outside of your own?

Cioppino’s Restaurant in Yaletown for special occasions

Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown for sushi

I tryout a different restaurant every Sunday.

Which cities around the world provide you with culinary inspiration for your restaurants when you travel?

New York is the mecca of dining in the world followed by my home town of Toronto.

Where do you get your creative inspiration?

  • Travelling
  • People and what their needs are, giving people an experience they will remember.

What is your drink of choice?

Daytime – Margarita with good Tequila

Before Dinner – Champagne is a must

Dinner: red or white wine

Night time Cocktail – Old Fashioned with Buffalo Trace Bourbon

If you weren’t in the restaurant industry, what industry would you be in?

Movie business

Who are your mentors?

My father – who was in the restaurant biz, he passed away a few years ago.

What is the secret for a business to succeed?

What-ever effort you put into is what you get out.

What is on the horizon for you and your restaurants in the near future?

Grow organically and manage what I have, the best I can and see. I am always ready for the next opportunity. Change is good and I always hope they further their career.

By: Richard Wolak