Master Explorer is a regular series profiling adventurous locals who are inspired by Manitoba and create something unique. Their creations then fuel others to explore and embrace the province. This month’s feature introduces you to Joe Kalturnyk, architect of RAW:almond, the designer pop-up restaurant on the frozen river at The Forks.

What started as a harebrained idea between architect Kalturnyk and chef Mandel Hitzer of Deer + Almond is now celebrating its fifth anniversary. RAW:almond is hailed as the city’s hottest event during the coldest season. Each year, Kalturnyk designs a new structure for RAW:almond, and builds it with the help of a few construction friends. Hitzer runs the kitchen, and cooks with the help of a few chef friends.

What’s more: strangers brave the elements together, sit shoulder-to-shoulder at a long table, engage in conversation, share a gourmet meal, and become comrades by the evening’s end. RAW:almond is, at its heart, about community.

Chew on these facts: Tickets to the restaurant’s three-week run in January-February sell out in mere hours. RAW:almond won the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s Innovator of the Year award in 2015 . The New York Times and The Globe and Mail have published features on the dining event. In 2016, RAW:almond expanded to Manitoba’s north with “a franchise location” in Churchill (and Kalturnyk leaks that he has his eye set on other locations around the globe in the years to come).

Oh, Master Explorer, share more of your wisdom with us.

What’s your go-to Manitoba staycation?

I really love getting out every summer to Riding Mountain National Park. Manitoba has an abundance of outdoors, so as much as possible I like to take the family and spend a couple of days. Or even a day trip to Lake Winnipeg.

Where do you really, really want to explore in Manitoba?

The further north is kinda calling me. There’s an untapped beauty and quality that we have up there that a lot of people in the south don’t really know about.

As an architect, what building do you admire most in the province?

In Winnipeg, I’m a big fan of the Winnipeg Clinic with its Jetsons fins on the windows. Etienne Gaboury’s Precious Blood church is also a favourite.

And your favourite Winnipeg restaurant?

[laughs] I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it’s Deer + Almond. I love what Mandel’s doing. But every chef we bring to RAW:almond, they do really good stuff. And I don’t mean just for Winnipeg. I’ve travelled, I go to these fancy restaurants now, and these guys are good. We should take pride in that we have some great talent in Winnipeg.

To a visitor, describe the personality of Manitoba.

People give of themselves here. People are willing to take the time to help. I trace it back to the car-pushing culture–when people get stuck in the snow and everyone helps to push them out. There’s something that translates. It’s just part of our fabric to be giving.


Master Explorer Travel Manitoba