Our People

"We make very deliberate and conscious choices about how we source and prepare local ingredients, and champion growers and producers who care for the land as a renewable resource. We also make very deliberate and conscious decisions on how we operate. We care about and have created practices to address our source and use of energy and resources, and how we dispose of waste and unwanted materials."

Sal Howell, Founder and Proprietor

Sal Howell is a successful restaurateur who has helped shape the culinary landscape in Western Canada. She is the founder and proprietor of River Café and the new Deane House in Calgary and is deeply committed to local seasonal food, sustainable agriculture and exploring the local ‘terroir’ and ‘taste of place’ of the Prairies, and Canada. Sal has fostered the hospitality and pioneered the culinary ‘farm to table’ philosophy at River Café since its inception in 1991.

British born and educated on both sides of the Atlantic, Sal holds a Fine Arts Degree from Mount Allison University. Both as an artist and restaurateur, her natural style and palate for extraordinary local food have come together in her restaurants.

Sal has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her dedication and persistence in forging new paths to sustainability and for her contributions to Canadian cuisine.

Sal was awarded Independent Restaurateur of the Year 2009 at the Food Service & Hospitality Pinnacle Awards, Best Restaurateur 2014 at the Terroir Symposium Awards for Excellence in Hospitality, and Leader of Sustainability Award 2010 from The City of Calgary, and Earth Day Canada's Hometown Hero's Award 2016, and received The Laurie Masterson Award 2016 from Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. YWCA's 'She Who Dares' 2017.

River Café has numerous accolades including, Canada's 100 Best Restaurants, Best Overall Restaurant, Avenue Magazine and Where Magazine, WHERE Magazine Ocean Wise Sustainable Seafood Award for dedicated effort in supporting the Ocean conservation, and inclusion in the international publication 'The 1001 restaurants you must experience before you die'.

"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.

Heather Wighton, General Manager

Heather Wighton has a passion for restaurant operations and for providing great dining experiences. An Ontario native, she has managed several of Calgary’s most acclaimed and award winning restaurants. Heather spends her free time volunteering with Inn From The Cold, a Calgary organization that provides assistance to homeless families, and volunteers for Tourism Calgary. Heather currently sits on the SAIT College Hospitality and Travel Advisory Board and the Women Chefs and Restauranteurs Organization Calgary Board.

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 WINE LIST 2014 - Vancouver International Wine Festival