Best restaurants in Calgary – Duncan Ly Executive Chef

With The Pop-up Wedding approaching, I thought we should tell you about Chef’s Table, the fine dining restaurant at Kensington Riverside Inn.  Chef’s Table will be offering our Brides and Grooms delightful cocktails and canapés on April 13th.  Who better to describe one of the best restaurants in Calgary, than the Executive Chef, Duncan Ly?   In addition to Chef’s Table, Ly  is the Executive Chef for the entire  Hotel Arts  Group, which includes Yellow Door Bistro, Raw Bar, the hotel’s banquet services and their off-site catering.  I had the privilege of sitting down with him at Yellow Door Bistro one morning last week.


Ly shared that he didn’t aspire to become a Chef but during his first job as a dishwasher at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, BC, he was enticed by the aromas in the kitchen and the ingredients that went out on the plates.  He went on to complete a 3-year apprenticeship at the Wickaninnish, then moved to Vancouver to work as a breakfast cook.  According to Ly,  “being a breakfast cook is the toughest job there is”?  When I asked him to elaborate, he explained that the solitary breakfast cook endures early mornings, a fast pace, hurried customers and the most temperamental of ingredients, eggs.  

Ly joined the Hotel Arts group in the early stages and is most proud of breathing life into their kitchens.  Over the years, their philosophy of using fresh, sustainable ingredients and cooking with passion have been maintained.  His passion for the kitchen continues today.  He insists on working on the line in each of his restaurants in order to connect with the food.   He claims he can eat in a restaurant and determine how involved the Chef is.  “If the Chef is ‘hands on’, everything is 10% better”, and you can identify the personal touches.

Chef’s Table, situated in Kensington Riverside Inn, was recently voted #7 in Avenue Magazine’s Top 10 Best Restaurants in Calgary.  Ly humbly shrugged off my congratulations and insisted that although awards are flattering, it’s the everyday that’s more important.  “You’re only as good as your last meal”.  He also credits the solid team he works with, including several Sous Chefs who have been with him for years.

What makes Chef’s Table distinctive?  Ly quickly answers, “It’s a true fine dining experience”.  He definition of fine dining is multi-faceted.  It includes style, quality, presentation, atmosphere, service, linens, dinnerware, tasting menus…the list goes on.  The menu at Chef’s Table is founded in classic technique but with a modern twist.


What is his favorite dish?  Chef’s Table signature is Foie Gras, changing with each new season.  Their version is cured and pressed with a modern visual appearance and served with bread sauce.

It’s small size gives Chef’s Table the opportunity to focus on quality versus quantity. Combined with the high standards associated with Relais & Châteaux establishments, the restaurant’s intimacy inspires creativity.  The open kitchen gives the Chef’s the unique opportunity connect with their guests every night.

We’re excited to have Calgary Brides get a taste of the menu at Chef’s Table at The Pop-up Wedding.  When asked to describe what is distinctive about KRI/Chef’s Table, Ly speaks fondly of the intimate venue, the beautiful views of the Bow River and the opportunity to make The Inn exclusively your own.   When it comes to the food, the staff customize the menu to meet the needs of each and every couple.   This combination makes them a truly exceptional and unique wedding venue in Calgary.

Because The Pop-up Wedding is all about celebrating nuptials, I had to ask what he would serve if he were doing his own wedding over again.  Ly described an Asian-Fusion menu featuring a family favorite, Tom Yum Soup.  Not surprisingly, Chef’s Table features Tom Yum Soup, a shellfish broth with squid and sea bass.

Brides and Grooms, I hope that Chef Ly’s words have wet your appetite and inspired you to secure your reservation for The Pop-up Wedding.  You will have the opportunity to tour The Inn, see it in full wedding splendor and savour canapés, prepared by Chef’s Table.  Complimentary tickets are still available by calling The Inn at 403-228-4442.

Photos of best restaurants in Calgary:  Tara Whittaker Photography


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