Starbelly Restaurant
By Karen Durrie

A Globe-Trotting Chef

After an education at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute, volunteer stints at some of the top restaurants in Toronto, New York and Europe, as well as Calgary's Rouge, chef Trevor Ross landed at the helm of a 160-seat restaurant in an unlikely locale — Calgary's deep suburban southeast. Starbelly opened in the Seton neighbourhood in November of 2014, and Ross was given carte blanche by the restaurant's backers to create his dream eatery. The restaurant's name reflects this, as it refers to a Dr. Seuss book whose star-bellied characters represent individualism and uniqueness. In realizing his cuisine vision, Trevor has given Starbelly a bright, unpretentiously rustic atmosphere and a hearty menu of classic dishes that feature creative twists.

The idea of opening up so far from downtown drew me in. - Trevor Ross, executive chef
Starbelly, casual gourmet food, lunch, dinner, wine, beer, tasting menu, cooking demonstrations, private dining room
Starbelly features a bright, unpretentiously rustic atmosphere and a hearty menu of classic dishes given creative twists. Photo by Karen Durrie

Casual Gourmet in a Southeast Suburb

So what of a highly trained culinary artist opening an upscale eatery in the 'burbs on the edge of town? "The idea of opening up so far from downtown drew me in," Trevor says. "I have already worked in downtown places that were too polished and stuffy and was done with it. Here I've already got two dozen regulars that come in two to three times a week, and you just don't get those relationships downtown."

In what is sure to be an ongoing boon to business, the South Calgary Health Campus is situated adjacent to Starbelly. As well, a Marriot hotel is being built here, and a massive community development plan will see the area continue to expand for years to come.

Foodies in the deep south have expressed appreciation for not having to spend $80 to $100 on cab fare to go downtown for gourmet food, Trevor says. And he has embraced the community in return, trading wine events and cooking lessons for the services of area photographers and social media professionals. Relatively new to Calgary — and having lured a couple of Ontario colleagues to Starbelly — Ross and friends have enjoyed discovering the city's food scene. "I think it is up-and-coming and has so much room for opportunity and future growth. I really enjoy the down-to-earth atmosphere and amazing community support we've experienced already."

Starbelly, casual gourmet food, lunch, dinner, wine, beer, tasting menu, cooking demonstrations, private dining room
The sourdough doughnut dusted with root beer spice and served with bourbon vanilla gelato and brown butter caramel sauce is a bestseller.

Subtle Smoke, Dusted Doughnuts

Starbelly's dishes feature ingredients grown and produced locally. This seasonal fare includes from-scratch pastas and sauces. The custom applewood-fired grill in the large centre bar, and the open-concept kitchen, are the heart of the restaurant. Here, diners can watch what's going on and feel a part of the food preparation and kitchen energy.

An in-house smoker is used to subtly impart flavour to chicken, ribs and house-cured bacon. "You're not overwhelmed with smoke — we don't use it and abuse it as some restaurants do," Trevor says. Other menu offerings include sourdough flatbread with dates, pesto and chili balsamic jam and wood-fire charred calamari with smoked chili butter sauce. The most popular item on the menu is one that Trevor created as a dessert accompaniment for a Big Rock Brewery competition — a sourdough doughnut dusted with root beer spice and served with bourbon vanilla gelato and brown butter caramel sauce.

Starbelly, casual gourmet food, lunch, dinner, wine, beer, tasting menu, cooking demonstrations, private dining room
Starbelly is situated adjacent to the South Calgary Health Campus. Photo by Karen Durrie
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