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Ryan Smolkin, the visionary behind Smoke’s Poutinerie, embarked on his culinary journey with the guidance of Toronto restaurant consultants The Fifteen Group.
Eager to gain experience in the restaurant industry, Smolkin collaborated with the expertise of The Fifteen Group’s chef to create the original gravy recipe.
In 2008, Smoke’s Poutinerie marked a significant milestone by opening its inaugural establishment in Toronto, becoming the city’s first dedicated poutine restaurant.
This milestone was influenced by the inspiration drawn from Montreal’s La Banquise, renowned for its diverse poutine offerings.
By 2016, Smoke’s Poutinerie had already established 76 restaurants in Canada and 5 in the USA, with ambitious plans for global expansion, envisioning the opening of 1,300 restaurants worldwide by 2020.
The brand initiated this expansion by granting franchises to eager entrepreneurs in the USA. A year later, in 2017, the restaurant boasted around 150 locations across Canada and the USA. In 2014, Smoke’s Poutinerie introduced its first US location in Berkeley, California, which, regrettably, closed its doors in April 2018.
Subsequently, the four other Smoke’s Poutinerie locations in the USA also ceased operations. As of August 20, 2022, the official websites report 49 currently operating locations, all situated in Canada.
Poutine Eating Championship
An annual highlight in Smoke’s Poutinerie’s history is the World Poutine Eating Championship. This prestigious event crowns a new champion each year, with the remarkable achievement of breaking a world record for poutine consumption in 2016.
The championship comprises three levels of Poutine eating, encompassing amateur, professional, and destroyer categories.
In the same year, the event took on a philanthropic focus, raising funds for the Friends of We Care charity. The endeavor proved successful, accumulating over $50,000 to support disabled children in their journey to summer camp.
Rivalry in the Market
Smoke’s Poutinerie faced fierce competition within the Canadian culinary landscape. Many prominent national restaurant chains had already incorporated traditional Poutine into their menus.
By 2015, Smoke’s Poutinerie had expanded to open its second location in Toronto, while Poutineville, a Quebec-based poutine restaurant chain, had already established six restaurants as of May 2019.
Furthermore, Smoke’s Poutinerie encountered competition from major corporate entities. McDonald’s, initially offering Poutine solely in Quebec, extended its offerings to encompass the entire nation.
In 2012, Wendy’s added Poutine to its menu, declaring it Canada’s national dish. Numerous other companies introduced Poutine to their menus, including Burger King, A&W, KFC, and Popeyes.
The Passing of the Founder
Tragically, on October 29, 2023, Ryan Smolkin passed away at the age of 50 following complications arising from surgery.
A full story about Smoke’s Poutinerie Founder Ryan Smolkin
Ryan Smolkin, the eccentric entrepreneur from Smiths Falls, Ontario, who gained fame for his restaurants renowned for serving Poutine adorned with many toppings, has passed away.
At the age of 50, the founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie Inc.
He unexpectedly succumbed to complications arising from recent surgery on a Sunday, as announced by the company on Monday. Ryan Smolkin harbored grand aspirations of attaining “global domination” with his brand based in Ajax, Ontario.
Mark Cunningham, Smoke’s president and chief operating officer, handpicked by Smolkin as his successor, shared, “He wanted to establish a presence in every city and every country around the world, and that was his vision from day one.”
In 2009, Smolkin embarked on his journey with Smoke’s, crafting substantial portions of Poutine adorned with delectable ingredients such as pulled pork, bacon, cheeseburgers, and butter chicken. His choice of Poutine was rooted in its uniqueness, according to Cunningham.
Within the realm of Smoke’s, Smolkin assumed the title of Chief Entertainment Officer, leading him to curate over 30 diverse variations of the fry-based dish offered by his chain.
He also starred in numerous YouTube videos, often sporting mirrored shades and a furry trapper hat, daring to top unconventional items like Timbits, deviled eggs, or apple pie with gravy, all in pursuit of answering the whimsical question, “Will it gravy?”
While Cunningham described Smolkin as occasionally reserved, he came to life in the spotlight. “When the camera light switched on, he was all set to rock ‘n’ roll,” reminisced Cunningham.
Smolkin’s culinary creations and vibrant persona quickly captured the hearts of Canadians, even earning the admiration of actor Seth Rogen, who once declared to the Toronto Star that Smoke’s fries drenched in smoked meat, cheese curds, and gravy would be his ideal last meal on Earth if such a choice were to be made.
Such accolades propelled Smoke’s from its inaugural establishment on Adelaide Street West in Toronto to a network of approximately 100 locations across Canada and, for a time, in the United States.
He frequently expressed his ambition to take Poutine, a long-standing Quebec delicacy, to every corner of the globe, often motivating his staff with the motto, “Nothing stops the gravy train.”
Along the way, he inaugurated the World Poutine Eating Championship, where competitive eater Joey Chestnut once devoured nearly 13 kilograms of Poutine in 10 minutes.
In 2016, he introduced a CEO category to the championship, where leaders in the food industry competed and raised funds for We Care, a charity dedicated to sending children with disabilities to camp, an organization on whose board Smolkin served. Smolkin partook in the executive version of the competition, but not without a touch of mischief.
“He’d tamper with the gravy, or we’d slip something unexpected into the box for him, or he’d generously distribute more boxes to his competitors than he had,” Cunningham chuckled.
Rock’ n’ roll permeated much of what Smolkin did. He would serenade patrons in the brand’s eateries, adorn the company’s headquarters with a large video screen for 1980s rock music videos, and even challenge partners and suppliers to showcase their air guitar skills on stage during the company’s conferences, according to Cunningham.
However, one of his most notable rock ‘n’ roll moments unfolded when he crossed paths with Kiss star Gene Simmons. Their friendship blossomed, leading Smolkin to pay a visit to Simmons at his Los Angeles residence, as relayed by Cunningham.
They enjoyed leisurely conversations by the pool, and Smolkin’s face would light up every time he received a text from Simmons while the rock legend was on tour.
“[Smolkin] held a deep admiration for (Simmons), both in the realm of music and as a fellow business entrepreneur,” Cunningham remarked. “Their connection was undeniably strong.”
Much like Simmons, Smolkin possessed a natural knack for marketing. He selected the iconic Smoke’s color scheme of red and black checkered plaid, a nod to the shirts he often sported, and adorned his establishments with a hand-drawn logo featuring the company’s mascot, Smoke.
This branding allowed him to draw upon his prior experience as the head of a marketing and design firm that boasted clients such as Nike, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Molson Breweries, and Corus Entertainment.
Beyond his professional endeavors, Smolkin was a proud father of twins Nate and Sam and is survived by his father and two siblings.
Following the announcement of his passing, Cunningham shared that his family and the Smoke community have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support.
“He had a generous heart,” Cunningham noted. “He was the kind of person who would greet you with a hearty high-five, a reassuring pat on the shoulder, or a warm bear hug… He undeniably left a profound impact on people.”
FAQs about Ryan Smolkin
Ryan Smolkin age
Ryan Smolkin, founder of Ajax-based Smoke’s Poutinerie, dies at age 50.
Who is the smokes poutine guy?
Ryan Smolkin, the zany, Smiths Falls, Ont. -bred entrepreneur best known for his restaurants serving Poutine smothered in an endless array of toppings, has died. The founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie Inc
What is smoke poutine about?
Smoke’s Poutinerie proudly stands as the Foremost and Largest Poutinerie Worldwide, delivering an extensive menu exclusively dedicated to the art of Poutine.
The overarching vision of Smoke’s Poutinerie is to attain Worldwide Dominance by presenting a Distinct Canadian Culinary Adventure that will Captivate Audiences Across the Globe!
Who is the CEO of Smoke’s Poutinerie?
Smoke’s Poutinerie Inc. says the founder of the fast-food chain has died. The company attributed the Sunday death of 50-year-old Ryan Smolkin to unexpected complications from a recent surgery.
Who is the owner of Smoke’s Poutine?
Smoke’s Poutinerie founder Ryan Smolkin is remembered for their fun persona, back to a video. The founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie Inc. was 50.
He died Sunday of unexpected complications from a recent surgery, the company said Monday, adding that he dreamt of achieving “global domination” with the Ajax, Ont.-based brand.
How many locations does smokes poutinerie have?
By 2017, the restaurant had some 150 locations across Canada and USA.
- We Care Canada – Ryan Smolkin (Director) – Link
- Smoke’s Poutinerie – Wikipedia – Link
- Smoke’s Poutinerie Official Website – Link
- The Star – News Source – Link
- Durham Region – Ryan Smolkin, Founder of Ajax-based Smoke’s Poutinerie, Dies at Age 50 – Link
- Ryan Smolkin on LinkedIn – Link
- CBC News – Obituary: Ryan Smolkin – Link
- NRN – Smoke’s Poutinerie Announces Death of Founder and Chief Entertainment Officer Ryan Smolkin – Link