Holiday Inn hires notable chef

He’s cooked for the Queen, medalled at international culinary competitions and was responsible for the infamous oatmeal raisin cookie that contributed to the demise of Stephen Duckett, the former CEO of Alberta Health Services.

Afzal Rajan

Afzal Rajan

He’s cooked for the Queen, medalled at international culinary competitions and was responsible for the infamous oatmeal raisin cookie that contributed to the demise of Stephen Duckett, the former CEO of Alberta Health Services.

Soon, Emmanuel David will be serving up meals at a Gasoline Alley hotel.

The Edmonton chef has been hired to oversee food operations at the Holiday Inn hotel that is currently under construction on the east side of Hwy 2, on Red Deer’s southern outskirts.

“Red Deer is very, very fortunate to have that caliber of chef in the city,” said Afzal Rajan, president of developer Zainul & Shazma Holdings (1997) Ltd.

David’s resume includes work as executive chef at the Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina, where in 1987 he prepared a state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II. He’s been featured in Chef of America magazine and has won gold and silver medals as a member of Culinary Team Alberta and Culinary Team Canada at chef competitions in Europe and the United States.

In the 1990s David worked at Edmonton’s Holiday Inn — The Palace, which Rajan owned at the time. He later became executive chef and co-owner of Dante’s Bistro in Edmonton, which evolved into the Shark Club. Most recently, he’s headed the kitchen staff at La Persaud Food & Beverage Corp.

It was La Persaud that provided the food for the Alberta Health Services meeting where Duckett dismissed reporters with a wave of his cookie — a David creation.

At Red Deer’s new Holiday Inn, David will be responsible for food at the family restaurant and lounge, and also the conference centre. Outside catering is also a possibility, said Rajan.

“If there’s a demand, we’ll do it.”

The 114-room Holiday Inn is expected to open in June. With an anticipated cost of $18 million, it will include a waterslide and pool, and is expected to employ between 80 and 100 full- and part-time staff.

The conference centre will be big enough to accommodate 450 people, 500 with theatre-style seating, said Rajan. There will be no pillars in the sprawling room, he pointed out, a design feature made possible by bringing in massive steel beams from Germany.

“It’s over a quarter million dollars,” said Rajan, adding that this investment is worth it.

“Especially for the wedding market and conferences, people don’t like to see three or four pillars. That really disrupts the head table if there’s a pillar in the middle.”

A fountain will grace the foyer outside the conference area, with a curved corridor connecting this area to the lobby. Even the windows in the passageway — which were shipped in from Ontario — will be curved, said Rajan.

He placed the cost of glass alone for the building at more than $400,000.

Rajan thinks the project’s timing is good, with 2011 expected to be a much stronger year economically than the last two. He’s optimistic his hotel’s central location on the Hwy 2 corridor will make it a popular meeting place, and thinks its proximity to Westerner Park will generate business.

Hwy 2 travellers are also likely to stop at the hotel, with other guests finding their way there via Holiday Inn’s reservation system.

“Plus, Gasoline Alley is really growing,” said Rajan.

Zainul & Shazma Holdings also operates the Holiday Inn Express outlets in Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House, Edson and Hinton, plus another full-service Holiday Inn at Hinton. Rajan previously owned the Red Deer Travelodge and Super 8 Motel.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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