The owner of Komfort Kitchen in Brandon believes consistency is a key ingredient in his recipe for restaurant success.
“Every time a customer comes in, you have to give them a great meal,” says Derek Woychyshyn. “Word of mouth is very strong, especially in small communities.”
Raised on a mixed farm near Minnedosa, Derek realized at an early age that food was his calling. A restaurant worker by age 15, he held a job as full-time cook during his final two years of high school.
“I was young when I learned about growing, harvesting and preparing food,” he recalls. “We were self-sufficient on our farm, growing vegetables and raising cattle, chickens and geese.”
Six days after graduating, Derek moved to Brandon for more restaurant experience and to further his education through Assiniboine Community College’s culinary arts program. In 2002, he achieved the coveted Red Seal recognizing creativity, quality and professionalism as a chef.
Komfort Kitchen opened in February, 2005, in a century-old building at 835 Princess Avenue which Derek had leased and renovated. With a staff of three, he cooked and served breakfasts and lunches that quickly became the talk of the town.
“I never really thought I’d be a cook and own a restaurant,” he admits. “Restaurants are among the most risky start-up business ventures. They are the least likely to get funding.”
The first year was difficult. By day, Derek ran Komfort Kitchen. By night, he worked a second full-time job at another Brandon restaurant to pay his living expenses. “I put everything I made in the restaurant back into the restaurant.”
The dedication paid off. Earning a reputation for great food and friendly service, Derek was able to double seating capacity in 2011 from 42 to 81 spots. He also bought the building and secured a loan for interior renovations and a new roof, through Westoba Credit Union.
“I was able to show over the previous five years that we could make it work,” he recalls. “Westoba has been really flexible and helpful in me growing my business.”
Today, Komfort Kitchen employs 20 people, including a number of Red Seal chefs. A recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from his college and Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, Derek provides apprenticeship opportunities for culinary arts graduates.
“I believe in ‘aces in places’,” he says. “To be successful, you have to have the right staff in the right positions.”
Now open seven days a week, Komfort Kitchen also caters events, providing the same great meals and snacks that helped Derek build a solid following.
“People will actually applaud when Komfort Kitchen food is delivered to events,” he laughs. “They’re just so happy when it’s coming from us. It feels so good to have achieved that recognition and respect.”
Westoba salutes Derek Woychyshyn and Manitoba’s 38,000 small business owners during 2018 BDC Small Business Week.