Our People

"Hospitality is very complex. We bring our life experiences and passions, pour them into what we do, and find the result is ever changing and evolving. "

Sal Howell, Founder and Proprietor

Sal Howell is the proprietor and founder of River Café and Boxwood. Sal is a passionate advocate for cooking with and eating local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients and has fostered the culinary and hospitality philosophy at River Café since its inception.

Born in Wales, well traveled and educated on both sides of the Atlantic, Sal studied Fine Arts at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and arrived in Calgary in 1989.

“I have many mentors within the food growing, food service and hospitality community. We all learn from our mentors, we become mentors. We learn from our peers, and then there is the never-ending flow of fresh young enthusiasm with new ideas and innovation. We invite our entire staff to share their ideas and their creativity, and to engage and contribute daily to the vision and philosophy.

Growing food and connecting with others who do, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my journey at River Café and now also at our new restaurant Boxwood. Sharing these ingredients at the table, utilizing traditional procurement and culinary artistry is a truly wonderful experience and allows us time to enjoy life through the simple pleasures of the table.”

2014 BEST RESTAURATEUR - Terroir Awards for Excellence in Hospitality

2010 INDEPENDENT RESTAURATEUR OF THE YEAR - Food Service & Hospitality Pinnacle Awards

"I believe in the thoughtful utilization of artisanal and traditional culinary techniques from various cultures through a contemporary lens."

Matthias Fong, Executive Chef

A born and raised Calgarian, Matthias' early intrigue with the kitchen was sparked watching the steam billow out from pots on the stove while his mother and grandmother spent hours wrapping hand-made dumplings, rolling fresh steam buns and braising chicken feet. Working closely with mentors such as River Café alumni Chef Scott Pohorelic and Chef Andrew Winfield, as well as British Michelin-starred Chef Marcus Wareing, Matthias has developed his own style of Canadian Cuisine.

Matthias has a profound appreciation for the study of food that is both academic and pragmatic. He draws creative inspiration from an inquisitive passion for why taste of place matters in Canadian food culture, and his palate is impeccable. He carries on the River Café traditions of mentorship, commitment to a culture of learning, passion for ingredients and devotion to our local sustainable food community.

Kevin MacPhie, General Manager

With great appreciation for the details that create a memorable dining experience, Kevin brings a wealth of talent to the service team at River Cafe. Prior to joining River Cafe in 2012, Kevin honed his skills at some of Vancouver’s most storied restaurants and owned his own restaurant in Grand Cayman. His passion for transforming a dining experience from ordinary to extraordinary is shared by the whole team and is tethered to the award winning cuisine and service at River Cafe.

CANADA'S TOP 50 RESTAURANTS 2014 - Vacay.ca
TOP 10 RESTAURANTS 2014 - Avenue Magazine
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR 2011 - Tourism Calgary White Hat Awards

Bruce Soley, Sommelier and Cellar Manager

Bruce has been a familiar face for guests and a savvy guide to River Café's wine list since 1999. A graduate of The International Sommelier Guild, Bruce continues to expand his vast knowledge through regular tasting, reading and—lucky him—travel in wine country.  Bruce enjoys maintaining the list's quality and diversity and believes that the most important part of his job is listening to guests to help them discover new favourites. Like any wine aficionado, his personal preferences change daily depending on mood, temperature, season, time of day and of course, what is on his plate.

BEST OF AWARD OF EXCELLENCE 2014 - Wine Spectator
BEST WINE LIST 2014 - Vancouver International Wine Festival