Person of Interest: Local restaurateur calls it quits after four decades in the hospitality industry

Bud Kanke sells Joe Fortes to Keg Restaurant kingpin David Aisenstat

A legend in Vancouver's restaurant scene, Bud Kanke is calling it quits after 40 years in the industry. He will officially make the announcement this week. Having opened 11 restaurants in his distinguished career, including The Cannery, Mulvaney's and the Fish House in Stanley Park, Kanke will hand over the keys to his last remaining property, the venerable Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House, to Keg Restaurant's David Aisenstat.

Now 72, the UBC accounting graduate and father of three kids has decided it's time to retire from "active" business. The Chilliwack native has been at the helm of his favourite restaurant since 1985. During that time, the Thurlow Street surf and turf hot spot has garnered a loyal following and received many accolades. They include citations for Best Service, Best Wine and Best Bar. Kanke's efforts recently culminated with an induction into the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame.

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The avid golfer has been contemplating retirement for some time. Just over a month ago, after the end of Vancouver's Dine Out Festival, news broke that Kanke sold his only other restaurant, Goldfish in Yaletown. The sale of Joe Fortes will cap an illustrious career in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Kanke is proud of the five million meals served, half a billion dollars his rooms have generated, and the $1.4 million raised for various local charitie. But now, he'll turn his attention to spending more time with his wife Dotty and their six grandchildren.

How did you get into the industry?

I was a Controller at Rivtow Straits. A chance meeting with designer David Vance and a seafood salesman had me hooked. David and I would build five restaurants together.

Why is Joe Fortes so special?

It feels like home_it's warm, comfortable and has great staff. Customers have a great guest experience.

Why have you decided to sell the restaurant?

At age 72, retirement was looking more attractive so I've decided to retire from "active" business.

Over the last 40 years, who are three of the biggest names who ate at Joe Fortes?

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leslie Neilsen and Jeff Bridges.

Of all the restaurants you have opened, which has been the most special?

There is a couple: Joe Fortes and The Cannery Seafood Restaurant.

Biggest lesson you've learned?

Know how to manage "the business".

What was the lowest point in your career?

The recession back in the '80s.

What has been your proudest professional achievement?

Induction into B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame, The Chane des Rtisseurs and DiRoNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) Award.

What has the past four decades meant?

The sense of pride in our accomplishment and what we have brought to Vancouver.

Three people who have been instrumental in your career?

Umberto Menghi, marketer Peter Bradshaw and designer Frank L. Wright.

A piece of advice you would share with someone wanting to enter the restaurant and hospitality industry?

Have a passion for guest service and know how to run the business.

What is the biggest challenge in the industry today?

Guests are very sophisticated and much more knowledgeable of food.

Biggest change you have seen in the industry over the past 40 years?

Young Millennials [19 - 25 year olds] as guests and in the business.

What has been the biggest reward?

Pleasing guests.

What has been the biggest thrill?

Happy staff serving happy customers! When you see the smiles, it's all worth it.

What does success look like?

A full restaurant all the time. It says they like what we are doing.

Looking back, what is one thing you would have done differently?

To own as much real estate as possible!

What will you miss the most?

The buzz of a room.

One thing you will not miss?

Managing people. It is difficult to get people to deliver standards consistently.

We had great people.

What's next?

A charity project for Vancouver Native Health Society.

A talent you possess that people may not be aware of?

I'm a closet architect and designer.

One lesson you'd love to give others?

Focus on what you are best at.

One thing you could change about the world?

Integrity and morals-they are slipping.

One thing you hate most about the world?

Volatility brought on by the excess of living beyond our means, even governments.

One thing you wish Vancouverites would stop whining about?

The weather.

One thing you wish Vancouverites could do more?

Appreciate the changing ethnic mix.

Three words to live by?

Truth, Love, Care

Favourite charity?

Vancouver Native Health Society.

Most memorable meal?

A picnic in Hoi An, Vietnam. It was a 10-course meal served on the beach by a chef and waiter. With the exception of Dotty and I, the beach was deserted.

Favourite dish?

Miso Sable Fish, French Fries and Umberto's lasagna.

Tipping: 15, 18 or 20 per cent?

20 per cent

Last $20, how would you spend it?

A great salad of grilled chicken, blue cheese, candied pecans, dried cranberries with my wife.

Best place for coffee?

Delaney's Coffee House in West Vancouver.

Best bar/lounge?

Gerard Lounge at The Sutton Place Hotel.

Drink of choice?

Mostly wine.

Favourite restaurant?

Umberto's Il Giardino

Biggest indulgence?

French fries.

Last book read?

The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst.

Favourite movie?

Out of Africa.

Favourite date place?

Desert Sage Restaurant in La Quinta, California.

Favourite pastime?

Golf, gym, and hiking.

Favourite local hotel?

Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

Favourite sports team?

The Vancouver Canucks.

First record purchased?

Glenn Miller.

Last place travelled?

Cambodia.

Favourite neighbourhood?

West Vancouver. La Rgalade French Bistro, Savoury Pie Company and Dundarave Fish Market.

Best thing about this city?

It's fresh, clean and safe.

Worst thing about this city?

Bike lanes and the traffic.

What would the perfect day in Vancouver look like?

Walk the West Vancouver Seawall, coffee at Delaney's and a visit to the Ferry Building Art Gallery.

Community event, festival or gala that you look forward to every year?

The Vancouver Sun Run.

The one place you take out of town visitors to show off our city?

The Museum of Anthropology at UBC.

Who inspires you?

Frank L Wright.

Local person you admire?

Jack Poole.

Most overrated person?

Gregor Robertson.

Sexiest part of a woman?

Her bum.

Sexiest part of a man?

His face.

Most memorable celebrity encounter?

Pierre Trudeau.

If you could be any celebrity?

Jeff Bridges.

yvrflee@hotmail.com

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