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Chef Callen Clancy has become captain of the restaurant business

Executive Chef Callen Clancy of Catch Hospitality Group in Oakville | Callen Clancy
Executive Chef Callen Clancy of Catch Hospitality Group in Oakville | Callen Clancy

Family man, executive chef, and hospitality baron Callen Clancy is responsible for the dining experience of guests at some of the most successful restaurants in Oakville and Hamilton.

Thriving for almost a quarter of a century, Oakville’s Catch Hospitality Group has become a leader in their business of exceptional accommodation of food, drink and service for their guests.

Since 2000, the group has expanded to eight restaurants in their portfolio, each offering a distinctly different eating experience, including Mother’s Tasty Sandwiches available only on Skip the Dishes and seasonal Duckies Dairy Bar.

Cucci Restaurant | Chef Callen Clancy
Cucci Restaurant | Chef Callen Clancy

At the helm of this growing empire is Oakville resident and Executive Chef Callen Clancy. 

At a young age, Callen remembers cooking with his mother, his earliest inspiration, experimenting in the kitchen while donning a chef hat and clutching the very first cookbook that she gave him. How could he know then at the age of six, that his future career as a chef would carry such great import?

Educated at George Brown College in the Culinary Arts Program, Callen then apprenticed at the 5-star Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto where he would continue to work for the next two years.

This experience led him to the opportunity with the highly recognized Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality group as a sous chef. Here he honed not only his culinary skills and became well-experienced in the business of catering.

James Beard Award winner Thomas Keller, Michelin-star restaurateur David Chang, world-renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, as well as television personality and food writer Heston Blumenthal, are some of Clancy’s culinary influences. Influences that would help inspire the ideas for future recipes.

He shares, "These are people who are pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box. Introducing foods that haven’t been tried before."

Clancy worked in Burlington as a head chef for six years before the opportunity to work for Catch Hospitality presented itself. He took the position at Cucci and in 2012 Clancy also became responsible for the operation of, then, newly opened Tavolo. The cooking style for both restaurants was Italian cuisine.

Pizza at The Firehall in Oakville | Chef Callen Clancy
Pizza at The Firehall in Oakville | Chef Callen Clancy

Within that same year when Plank Restobar was no more than five years old, Clancy set his eyes on expanding his responsibilities, excited to dig into diverse, new and innovative dishes; a variety that working with Plank could afford him.

"The fun thing about Plank is taking traditional dishes and flavours from other cuisines and melding them into something different. I'm into fun food and having people really enjoy what they’re eating, and trying something that they haven’t tried before," adds Chef Clancy.

Now with the group’s six eateries under his direction, which include: Cucci, two locations of Plank, Por Vida, Bronte Boathouse, and The Firehall, Clancy modestly explains that the privilege to oversee all six came from hard work.

His personal style of cooking can’t be narrowed down to one signature plate, but rather a surprise of flavours infused into his dishes from many countries. The variety between all of the restaurants allows Callen the platforms to express his creativity. 

As a result, Por Vida is reputed for its authenticity, sourcing only heirloom corn for their tacos, and Cucci for its quality ingredients enjoyed in top sellers like lobster linguine or mushroom toast.

Though Cucci was awarded a place in Open Table’s Top 100 Restaurants in Canada list in 2022, Clancy offers that he doesn’t seek personal accolades for his work, but rather bases his success on return customers, growth of restaurant, surrounding himself with a good team, and packing the restaurants with people who are really enjoying their food.

Evidenced on his social media, Callen spends a lot of time with his family, seemingly grooming a next generation chef. As a family man he works hard to achieve a balance.

Cucci in Oakville | Chef Callen Clancy
Cucci in Oakville | Chef Callen Clancy

Clancy makes every attempt to be present in all six locations each day, depending on the season. He explains that getting the Boathouse scheduled to open again this May 18, and running smoothly takes considerable time and care, hiring staff and preparing a new menu.

A tremendous undertaking in order to fill expectations as Boathouse is one of the busiest restaurants between Burlington, Oakville, and Mississauga, serving on average 1,000 people a day.

With the opening of a second location for Plank in Hamilton last December, Clancy expresses his delight in how busy the restaurant has become. Even more excited to share plans to open a rooftop patio at that location very soon.

Catch is pleased to be working with The Laundry Design Works, a full-service design studio. The patio will sit atop a six story boutique-style hotel with patio-style couches for kicking back, and a food truck for casual access to your favourite bites. Follow Plank’s social media for opening details. 

With little area available left to develop in Bronte, Catch is excited about expanding in Hamilton. There seems to be an explosive dining scene occurring there right now, and a growing restaurant district, where the group has plans to open yet another eatery in the city before the end of this year. 

When asked where Callen saw the direction of his career going in the next five to ten years, the answer was simple, "I want to keep growing and expanding this company. If this second restaurant in Hamilton goes well, further expansion is promising. I also hope to have continued opportunities to work with the Laundry group, in an effort to introduce exciting new concepts to restaurant-goers. We have a second Plank now, maybe 10 years from now we’ll have five more, who knows?"

"During COVID, we used Skip the Dishes to keep employees working as much as possible. The Town of Oakville was very helpful and supportive, allowing us to extend our patios. We unfortunately lost Tavolo during the pandemic, but The Firehall has been around for 20 years, Cucci for 14, and Plank for 11. The company isn’t going anywhere. It’s thriving."

While Callen worked for the Four Seasons Hotel, he had the opportunity to be mentored by acclaimed Chef Robert Bartley, Food Network Canada’s beloved celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford, highly respected Executive Chef of Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality Group Anthony Walsh, where he learned that mentoring is essential.

Clancy explains, "Most of my job is mentoring others. These restaurants cannot run without a good team. There’s no way that the restaurants would be successful without the prep cooks, sous chefs, chefs and the line chefs."

Cucci Risotto in Oakville | Chef Callen Clancy
Cucci Risotto in Oakville | Chef Callen Clancy

Clancy goes on to describe how committed and faithful those who work with him are. There is turnover in the restaurant industry and the group isn’t a stranger to it, but the chefs with Catch come to recognize the potential for growth without having to travel far.

Callen has sent an apprentice to Mexico for additional training as a measure to success and to bring maximum authenticity to their guests. He helps chefs move and grow within the organization, in order to learn more about other cuisines, allowing for the boundless value to the team that they can offer.

Giving back to the community and helping those in need is also important for Clancy. As the restaurants, collectively, are part of the community he encouraged the company to allow for charitable contributions to causes like Home Suite Hope, Salvation Army, Fight for Cancer, and Food for Life. Most recently initiating a Catch Hospitality Grant for employees at Catch enrolled in Culinary education.

As we enter the wedding season it would be important to note that Catch Hospitality catering is booming and are the preferred caterer at locations like Country Heritage Park. Contact information for catering services can be found on Catch Hospitality’s website.

Look for new things to come, in the near future, near the Cucci location. 

"The more that we grow, I want to make sure as the community grows, that we make everyone who comes in, happy," echoes Executive Chef Callen Clancy.

Growth and happiness was a common thread while interviewing Chef Clancy. Two of the most challenging elements for businesses to achieve together, but it would seem that Chef Clancy has spent enough time in the kitchen developing his own recipe that works.