Michael started his professional hospitality career in Calgary as a busboy at the very early age of 11. He spent his teens working his way up through the ranks at the Calgary Winter Club, and eventually moved to Hy’s Steakhouse, which was considered one of Canada’s most renowned restaurants of its kind. As a professional server, Michael gained experience in several of the city’s well-known establishments; The Belvedere, Vintage Chophouse, Capo, and Chef’s Table. He earned the position of maitre d’ at Chef’s Table, garnering recognition within the community and with their clientele. It was here that he met one of his current partners Kirk Shaw, and as time passed, they had many discussions about the possibility of owning a restaurant. Eighteen months later, Avec became a reality.
Michael brings many years of experience to the team and a very strong passion for service. Having recently traveled to France, Italy and Spain, he came back feeling strongly that the Calgary dining scene is worthy of comparison to other international food and wine destinations and as a community, we should be proud of what’s available in our own backyard.
While growing up in Cape Breton, Kirk had an early interest in wine. He was a devoted reader of the weekly wine column in the Halifax Herald and always tried to track down value-driven Riojas. Upon moving to Toronto, he somehow found himself working at the bastion of nouvelle cuisine, Statlanders. This was where Kirk first met many kind souls who furthered his education in the world of the grape. After a year at Statlanders, Kirk headed off to Vancouver where a burgeoning wine industry had developed in the wake of Expo. Shortly thereafter, Kirk had the great fortune to meet Robert Simpson (his mentor), who was operating the lone-at the time-Liberty Wine shop in Point Roberts, Washington. The weekly trips to "the Bob" provided an invaluable education in not only the grape, but also the business. It was a regular haunt for the giants of the wine trade and regular Sunday “le vin mystère” dinners allowed him the opportunity to taste with some of the most educated palates.
Whistler was the next destination for Kirk who began working with the infamous Andre St. Jacques at the Bearfoot Bistro. Kirk was the Wine Director at the Bistro for over 6 years (a record he believes will never be broken).
A move to Calgary found him dedicated to exploring and nurturing the burgeoning food and wine scene- locally and globally- with Jackie. Kirk spent 2 years as the Events Coordinator at Bonterra before leaving to open Petite with Jackie, which from its inception was a popular addition to the Calgary dining scene, placing second behind Rush in Avenue Magazine’s Best New Restaurant of 2010. Kirk was responsible for all facets of restaurant development from design to construction and upon opening, execution of service and day-to-day operation. Most recently, he was directing the wine program at Kensington Riverside Inn, where he met Michael Lazarowich, one of his current business partners. Kirk brings his East Coast charm to the team and ensures every guest has an exceptional experience.
Proprietor / Sommelier
Jackie began working in the restaurant industry as a server to earn money for her upcoming and ongoing university education. After graduating with an honours degree in environmental studies, she continued working in the industry as a server in Toronto and then made a move to the west coast; Whistler and eventually Vancouver. It was 1998 when Jackie decided she wanted to pursue a wine career after spending a month exploring the wine regions of the Pacific Northwest and California. Eager to learn more about wine and the restaurant industry, she took assistant manager positions first at Quattro at Whistler in 2000 and in 2001 at Raincity Grill in Vancouver.
In 2002, Jackie earned her sommelier diploma from the International Sommelier Guild in Vancouver. Since earning her diploma, Jackie has held various positions in the wine industry: cellar worker at Tinhorn Creek Winery; Sommelier at Mission Hill Winery and Sommelier at Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler. During this time, she took the opportunity to travel to wine regions in Italy, France, Spain, the USA and Canada.
In 2006, Jackie moved to Calgary with Kirk to fulfill their dream of opening a restaurant. Besides running a wine consulting business, she has been part of Bin 905, Vin Room, Metrovino and Una. Since 2007 and onward, she has been an instructor for the International Sommelier Guild in Calgary and a judge for the Wine Access International Value Wine Awards (2007-2012). Also, she has been on the sommelier staff at the International Pinot Noir Conference in Oregon since 2004 and the Wine Summit at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise in 2007.
Executive Chef / Proprietor
Darnell was born in rural Saskatchewan about 20 miles from the closest restaurant. He loved to cook from an early age and always asked to help his mother and grandmother in the kitchen when it came time to prepare a meal. He was only 4 at the time, so he had to stand on a stool to reach the counter. Darnell’s mother owned a catering business, so he got first hand instruction about preparation and technique and along the way he fell in love with food. When he was 12, he begged his parents to allow him to get a job as a dishwasher at a family friend’s restaurant, but they refused. Two years later they finally gave in and started commuting him back and forth to the restaurant until he was old enough to drive. When he first walked into the restaurant’s kitchen, he decided right away that he wanted to become a chef. He moved to Calgary at age 17 to attend SAIT, where he earned a scholarship and eventually graduated on the Dean’s List. He apprenticed at The Calgary Winter Club and his first official employment after earning his Red Seal was at Glen Eagles Golf Club. In 2007, he took the position of entremetier at the new Wildfire Grill and it was there he learned proper French technique under Chef Justin Labossiere. The following year, he spent 2 months at The Wickininnish Inn doing a stage to learn as much as he could to improve his skills. Upon return, he became the sous chef at Sky 360 under Alain Chabot, spent 18 months as the sous chef at Rouge and prior to Avec, was at Model Milk under Justin Leboe. Darnell had been thinking about the possibility of assuming the role as restaurant chef somewhere and shortly thereafter (with perfect timing), was introduced to Kirk and Jackie.
Darnell brings creativity and drive to the team and claims the Double Down at Joe Beef is the best thing he has ever eaten.