Michael Noble’s extensive culinary career and years abroad gave him the ambition and skills to open two restaurants. Now, Noble aspires to mentor young chefs and inspire their lifelong dream, leaving not only the legacy of his restaurants, but also the legacy of his service.
The early days
Noble’s own dream of becoming a chef started from an unlikely pair of missing credits in grade 11 and a course taught by what he says was the cutest instructor in his high school.
“I was more interestedin the girls than the class. It was actually the prettiest of all the teachers [that] was teaching so I was a little distracted. But then one day I made Belgian waffles and that was it for me.”
Noble took that same food and nutrition class in grade 12, eventually entering the culinary program at Vancouver Community College. After graduating from culinary school, Noble had a strong desire to work in a great kitchen, beginning his career at the Hotel Vancouver in 1995.
“It was not even to work in the main kitchen, my official job title was station attendant,” says Noble. “But I had the balls to go to the head chef of the hotel and say ‘when do I get to be an apprentice?’”
Learning from his European mentors during his years at the Hotel, Noble was well prepared for his culinary future. He was soon running multiple kitchens, traveling to Monaco and Switzerland and conversing worldwide in the universal language that is known as cooking.
“I learned how to be a cook, then I learned how to be a chef. Then I became a chef. Then I was chef of restaurants and hotels over the next decade. Then I finally had this black and white moment...That it was really time for me to open my own place.”
That’s when Noble recognized it was time to invest into his life-long dream of opening his own restaurant, allowing creative freedom with his dishes and the creation of a menu that he could be proud of.
“I like to do food that I can say, ‘This is my food. This isn’t somebody else’s food. This is food that I would want to eat when I go to my restaurant.’”
Notable opened in October of 2010, followed by The Nash in November of 2014. Each restaurant has thrived as Noble’s creations over the past years, receiving four star reviews online with Noble awarded as one of Avenue Calgary’s Chefs of the year in 2014. But none of this has come without the expense of his family time, working 90 hours every week at Notable during its first six to eight months.
Noble was aware of the dedication required to succeed in the industry, however, he notes that his one regret was not spending more time with his young family on his rise to the top.
“I was more interested in the girls than the class...But then one day I made Belgian waffles and that was it for me.” -Michael Noble
“Those are days I’ll never get back, [but] I know that I was doing what I felt was not only the best thing for me, but for my family. Working long hours, whether that it was to learn something, to make a reputation, to sort of build my skill set so that I could keep growing...it mattered to me that I could get to a point that I was making enough money to really take care of my family.”
Because of this pressure that Noble experienced, now with his own team, he encourages each of them to strike a balance between their work and personal lives.
“I probably didn’t have the emotional intelligence to know that some days I should just say that I’m going home, but I was too worried about what people would think of me if I went home. So you’re kind of driven by pleasing other people, and I recognize that and I encourage my young cooks now to not come from that place.”
Inspiring the next generation
Passionate about helping the next generation of chefs, Noble shares his personal experiences on travelling the world to learn the tricks of the trade with his team. Having been influenced by his travels and mentors, Noble wants to pass on what he has absorbed.
“I connected with some great European trained chefs who worked in that kitchen who were willing to teach me,” says Noble, “and I went from this young cook who was really afraid of being so deep in the shit during dinner service that I’d never get out of it to eventually gathering the skills and the knowledge to have some confidence.”
Noble’s engagement with his workers, and a family atmosphere are evident in his restaurants. Brittany Thompson, who is the current manager of Noble’s restaurant Notable, is a first-hand witness to the inspiration Noble is constantly sharing with his team.
“It’s not just about training people so that his restaurant is successful; he wants you as an individual to be successful,” says Thompson.
In the same way, Calder Sutton, a young chef who worked for The Nash for nearly two years, says that Noble was the one of the best chefs he has worked amongst – and someone who truly inspired him.
“Simply the best mentor ever. You’re not working for him, you’re working with him.”
Noble’s next aspirations are simple - watch his restaurants continue to grow, help young chefs navigate the field and enjoy the fact that everyday he gets to show up to work feeling excited and inspired. Hoping to leave more than just his legacy in the kitchen, Noble also spends his time volunteering with the Alex Community Food Centre, providing more for those in need.
“I’ve really come to realize that there are many ways that I can give myself to the world, more than just through what I cook, more than just through my restaurants, but really on a bigger level, impacting society.”
- By Casey Richardson