Founder and Chief Poutine Officer, Ryan Smolkin
units across Canada30
variations of poutine
during rush periods, a single unit with 2 registers
serves more than 180 servings
of made-to-order poutine in 1 hour
Kraft on Craft—
Ryan Smolkin Takes
the Kraft Challenge
Loaded fries, Canadian style, are poised to storm the border
Poutine is Canada's national treasure, and it's making its way into the U.S. Hailing from Quebec, this unspeakably delicious dish sees french fries topped with cheese curds and chicken gravy. Riding the huge wave of loaded fries and street food, poutine is finding favor here among late-night snackers, bar-food fans and burger-and-fries diners. In Canada, poutine has been around since the fifties. But recently, a concept there took that crowd-pleasing, wonderfully familiar comfort-food base and offered a customizable array of toppings. The result? A new-ish chain called Smoke's Poutinerie, which has gone from one unit in Toronto in 2009 to more than 40 units across Canada in 2013. It now has big plans to push down into the U.S. market later this year.
"Poutine is a side-dish staple, but we moved into the full-meal category," says Ryan Smolkin, founder and chief poutine officer at Smoke's Poutinerie, headquartered in Ontario. Indeed, Smoke's Poutinerie offers more than 30 types of poutine. Starting with hand-cut yellow-fleshed fries, Montreal cheese curds and housemade brown gravy, the restaurant serves up a staggering array of hearty builds–from a Double Pork Poutine (chipotle pulled pork, double-smoked bacon and signature gravy) to a Steak Fajita Poutine (flat iron steak, roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, salsa and sour cream).
Our team at Kraft Foodservice saw the menu at Smoke's Poutinerie. Knowing that loaded fries are huge here, and seeing the menu potential for a meal-in-a-bowl version of poutine, we challenged Ryan Smolkin to create a recipe using a Kraft product. He came back to us with passion and enthusiasm, and created the BBQ Mac 'N' Cheese Poutine. "This could easily have been called The University Special because it really appeals to that college diner in all of us, who loves their Kraft Mac & Cheese," says Smolkin. He starts with the classic trio of fries, curds and gravy, then adds cooked Kraft Macaroni & Cheese mixed with Bull's-Eye Original Barbecue Sauce. Grilled chicken and double-smoked bacon finish this dish. "Bull's-Eye is a smoky, bold barbecue sauce," he says. "The flavor is unbelievable. No add-ins or touch-ups necessary." One of the brand markers for Smoke's Poutinerie is its use of top quality products. "Using Bull's-Eye extends our efforts to offer premium ingredients to our customers. It's something we can highlight." And why Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? "Nobody can compete with the original," says Smolkin. "I wouldn't even think of putting a knock-off on our menu. It's the cheesiest. It's the best."
And why Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? "Nobody can compete with the original," says Smolkin. "I wouldn't even think of putting a knock-off on our menu. It's the cheesiest. It's the best."
Indeed, Smolkin was so smitten with the BBQ Mac 'N' Cheese Poutine, he added it as a six-week LTO across all units. "We got great feedback from all franchisees," he says. "A couple of them want to make it their regional signature dish. I think it was so successful because it's got wow factor, and because our poutine offers them great value."
Although Smoke's Poutinerie says its sweet spot is the late-night snacking category, it's also finding great success in the lunch and dinner day parts. "Half of our business is coming in at the traditional lunch and dinner hours," he says. "That was a surprise to us. I think it's because we're selling an experience that's far removed from the everyday."
If you were sent to a desert island, what 3 ingredients would you take with you?
Fries, curds and gravy.
What's your favorite kitchen tool?
What is your favorite Kraft product?
I've gotta go with Kraft Mac & Cheese. Add in sausage, chicken finger chunks, salsa and sour cream. I make it for friends when they come over. It's phenomenal.