5 things you never knew about Ernest's, an OpenTable top-100 restaurant in Canada

NAIT's fine-dining restaurant recognized as one of Canada's best

Ernest’s has earned national recognition and high praise from food lovers.

NAIT’s on campus fine-dining restaurant has been named one of the 100 Best Restaurants in Canada by OpenTable diners. This is the second year in a row Ernest's has been recognized by OpenTable, an online reservation tool.

“This is fantastic news,” said Mitch McCaskill (Hospitality Management '08), maitre d' at Ernest’s. “It's a tribute to the work we do at NAIT and at Ernest's in trying to be leaders in the industry.”

OpenTable says its top-100 list reflects the combined opinions of more than 500,000 user reviews of more than 2,000 restaurants in Canada who use the OpenTable tool.

Ernest’s was among 5 Edmonton-based restaurants and 17 in Alberta that made the list. In addition to that fact, here are 5 other things you might not know about Ernest’s.

michael hassal, nait, ernest's executive chef


1. Ernest’s welcomed its first-ever executive chef in 2017. Chef Michael Hassall's attitude is, “If I can dream it, we can do it.” An alumnus of the Cook program (class of '06), Hassall has worked as far afield as Australia and New Zealand but worked most recently at the local Italian restaurant Vivo. “I’m bringing the industry vibe,” he says. “But there won’t be yelling and banging and swearing because that’s not how I run a kitchen.”

2. Ernest’s is named after an Edmonton food industry pioneer. Born in 1920 in Edmonton to Swedish immigrants, Ernest Hokanson was a successful entrepreneur who ran his own oilfield catering company. At the age of 15, he landed a job washing pots and pans at the Hotel Macdonald, kickstarting his lifelong passion for the business. In 2003, Hokanson’s family helped raise $3.25 million to create the Hokanson Centre for Culinary Arts. It was built in 2005, along with the new dining room, which is now known as Ernest’s.

students at ernest's, nait's fine dining restaurant

3. Ernest’s teaches cooking. Not only is the restaurant known for offering an amazing dining experience, it’s also a great resource for amateur chefs. Radio and Television students team up with Culinary Arts students to produce a YouTube series called Cooking with Ernest’s. Each segment features a student chef who explains how to prepare a dish, and talks about its ingredients and origins.

4. Ernest’s is great for wine. Ernest’s uses an Enomatic wine dispenser which controls temperature and prevents oxidization, protecting the taste and aroma of the wine.

5. Chefs at Ernest’s use hyper-local ingredients. Many of the herbs and microgreens in Ernest’s delicious dishes are local. In fact, some are grown just a few paces from the dining room in the kitchen’s Urban Cultivator. The size of a large fridge, this high-tech mini-greenhouse can grow sprouts, basil and other tasty herbs year-round.

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