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July 7, 2016: Fairmont Confectionery; From Thailand to Hintonburg.

July 7, 2016: Fairmont Confectionery;
From Thailand to Hintonburg.

Story and photos by Randy Kroeker.

Some time ago a huge sign offering Vietnamese and Thai cuisine appeared in the window of the Fairmont Confectionery at the corner of Fairmont and Gladstone. The corner store was otherwise still in place. Men could be seen barbequing volumes of meat outside, before lunch.

Change almost always inspires curiosity, and this seems to be a good time to see what’s behind that sign. Upon entering, the casual visitor will notice the usual confectionery in the front, but at the back, something new and different – a very professional, very clean, fast food counter.
Study the menu for the most conservative offering and you might be advised by the counter staff to go with a Grilled Chicken Banh mi subway sandwich – grilled chicken with cilantro, pickled carrots and seasoning sauce, modestly priced, offering change from a five.

The adviser turns out to be the Assistant-Chef, La Cite Collegiale Culinary graduate Jericho Spencer-Champagne. As a standard practice, he asks about one’s preferences concerning peanuts — without having to be prompted. He also solicits customer input on what would be an appropriate amount of spice, which was both impressive and reassuring.

The sandwich, incidentally, was total Vietnamese taste heaven, with neither the usual hassle of building the sandwich in rice paper, nor the stress of finding parking in Chinatown!
When asked who was behind these changes, Jericho nodded toward the owner who was tapping on a computer at one of the tables, Sam Souryavong.

Sam’s dramatic story of coming to Canada began in 1975 when the Lao communists ended the monarchy and came to power in Laos.

The Communists were committed to exterminating imperialism and democracy, disruptions which led many to escape over the Mekong River to the refugee camps of Thailand. For two years, before coming to Canada, Sam was a teenager in one of those camps with his mother and siblings. A Mennonite Church in Hanover, Ontario, sponsored Sam and his sister.

In Toronto, he was overjoyed to get his first job as a labourer in a mattress factory. He studied English in the evenings and completed high school.

An entry-level office job in a legal firm brought him to Ottawa. Sam subsequently studied and worked his way up to Real Estate Title Conveyancer, a job he held for over 20 years. But when his lawyer-employer retired in 2014, Sam decided to fulfil his lifelong dream of opening a food-related shop.

He studied cooking in Thailand and returned to Ottawa to look for a location. Monitoring Kijiji, he saw that the Fairmont Confectionary, just a few blocks from where he had lived for 15 years, was for sale. He bought the business and added a food counter, Sam’s Café, at the back.

Sam wanted to go with what he calls, “home style, affordable food that is easy to relate to. Food of the common people that you would find on any street of Thailand.”

He found the neighbourhood to be very supportive from the beginning, with interest growing through word of mouth. The Café has even started getting institutional catering requests. His future plans include continuing to improve the menu and slowly expanding the restaurant seating in the store. This writer’s future plans include continuing to explore his menu!



Photo Caption: Sam Sam Souryavong (right) with chef Jericho Spencer-Champagne bring Thai cuisine to Hintonburg where they add a taste of the exotic to a local corner store.



Photo Caption: Store front view.



Photo Caption: Outdoor BBQ.

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