The Gauthier twins are cooking up a storm in – wait for it – Red Deer
Spend a few minutes watching Henrik and Daniel Sedin play for the Vancouver Canucks and you’ll have no trouble believing that twins possess an extra something the rest of us don’t. They seem to read one another’s minds; one is always ready to capitalize on the other’s play. Darren and Dwayne Gauthier know all about the twin phenomenon. With four friends, the 19-year-old identicals left the Maritimes, moved to Alberta and worked in the oil industry for a few years. Then the two started a landscaping business. Now 29, the Gauthiers have also opened Restaurant 27, a high-end restaurant in Red Deer to introduce the city of big-box restaurant franchises to adventurous menu items such as duck and rabbit. (The name references the age they were when they started the restaurant.) Sure, there have some differences. Dwayne is 15 minutes older; Darren is a more reserved (in their partnership, he handles the numbers). But their approach to business, and life, is remarkably similar.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Dwayne: I didn’t work in the oil industry right away. I went to NAIT’s culinary program. I worked in kitchens in an Edmonton hotel and a restaurant. I was passing through Red Deer en route to a job in Calgary when I decided to stay. I helped manage an East Coast, maritime-themed bar. I was working 70, 80 hours a week for $1,600 a month. I saw all these people around me making good money, so I called it quits and said I wasn’t working in another restaurant till I owned my own.
I worked in the oilfield for the next five years or so. Then my fiancée was pregnant, and I was still spending seven months of the year away from home. When we got into the oil rigs, the idea was always that we would save money to buy a restaurant. It didn’t quite work out. It’s more fun buying toys and motorcycles. But I’ve always been passionate about the restaurant business. Even in the oilfield I would spend days and nights watching the Food Network.
Darren and I are side by side 24/7. If anyone gets jealous, it’s my fiancée and Darren’s girlfriend. Yesterday, for example, I was at the restaurant at 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Then we picked up our landscaping gear and did snow removal until 3 a.m. We went home, got some sleep and were back at the restaurant first thing in the morning.
Darren: Dwayne and I have very creative sides, that desire to start with nothing and make something that is esthetically pleasing to look at. In high school I thought I’d be an interior designer.
Once you get into the oil industry, it’s hard to get away from the money. I saw the potential for less back-breaking work and I became a tool hand. When you’re younger, the lifestyle doesn’t bother you so much. The landscaping business gave us the potential to make money and take us away from the oilfields, to have a more normal life.
My girlfriend would like to see me at home more, but she understands that more work now means less down the road. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t affect us at all – there are a lot of long hours, long days. Working for yourself has a lot going for it, and at the end of the day it isn’t all about the money but enjoying what you’re doing.
Table for Two
Dwayne & Darren: A downtown restaurant was closing and we saw a lot of potential in the location, even though a lot of people thought we were crazy. It was within our price range. In January 2008, we opened Restaurant 27; that’s how old we were at the time. We wanted to do something different: support local farmers, use local produce, make everything from scratch. We even make homemade ketchup.
We do charge a little more than a franchise. It took six months to get people in the door and we lost a lot of money initially. We knew it would be hard the first year; we knew the landscaping company would have to pay the bills for a while. Now we’re busy six days a week. It didn’t strain our relationship because of our mentality: there’s one way to do things, and that’s the right way.
A few months ago we were just getting to the point where we were taking Sundays off, and maybe another night a week, when we saw the opportunity to open another, larger restaurant. (We hope to have it open this spring.) We plan to keep our downtown location a place for upscale breakfast and lunch, and the new location for dinner. Our plan is that by the time we’re 35 we can take our time, travel two or three times a year, and have the businesses provide for us at the same time.
It’s not always easy, we have to struggle sometimes. We find it cool that people appreciate what we’re doing, when we’re just kind of trying to live our dream. We grew up in Newfoundland, so we know you have to put in the hours to get what you want.