Cavern
By Athena Raypold

From Philosophy Professor to Cheese Connoisseur

Cavern chef and owner, Tricia Bell, began working in the service industry as a kid and, although she flirted with the industry for many years, she took a long and meandering path through international humanitarian relief work, three degrees and a tenured teaching position at CEGEP (College d’enseignement général et professional) before arriving back where she started. Through it all, she always kept one foot in the game, because serving was fun and light, “more ephemeral than the world I was used to," she says.

After spending most of her adult life outside of Edmonton, Tricia returned to reunite with her aging parents and “to become a cocktail waitress,” she says. The relief work she was doing was draining and she was looking for respite, but what began as a break became a three-year detour and, ultimately, the realization that she wanted to be self-employed, that she wanted to do “something different." So, she opened up a cheese shop and wine bar.

What I eat day to day, on a consistent basis … what fuels me, keeps me going, is essentially the Cavern menu. - Tricia Bell, owner
Cavern carries a selection of international artisanal cheeses, wine and espresso.
Cavern carries a selection of international artisanal cheeses, wine and espresso. Photo by Athena Raypold.

Why Cheese?

“I’ve eaten cheese my whole life,” Tricia says. “It’s been like a core, foundational component of my diet in a very instinctual way.” Tricia loves the versatility of cheese. “It’s just easy for me to work with,” she says. “You can be creative, it’s full sustenance and it’s super healthy.”

Tricia studied under world-renowned cheese expert, Max McCalman, in New York, and then, being an academic at heart, she supplemented her education with research and inspiration. What resulted was a little cheese place with a menu designed primarily around what Tricia eats and wants to share with the world. “What I eat day to day, on a consistent basis … what fuels me, keeps me going, is essentially the Cavern menu. And, that’s the way I’ve eaten my whole life.”

Cavern also offers breakfast and light lunches.
Cavern also offers breakfast and light lunches. Photo by Athena Raypold.

On the Cavern Experience

A unique room in the historic Phillips Lofts on 104 Street, Cavern is tucked away in the basement floor – a small room, beautifully designed, with a handful of tables, a cheese counter, a few bar stools and some gorgeously appointed bathrooms. Cavern is hard to nail down, though – it’s not just a cheese shop; it’s a place to grab an early breakfast or a light lunch, a wine bar and a cheese school. “My objective is to be outside of any niche. I feel like what I do is for everybody," says Tricia. “I don’t like to label what I’m doing too much because I want people to define it for themselves in a way. I’m wide open; I feel like my business and my product can offer so much to so many different people.”

Part of that experience is the service that Tricia and her staff provide. “When people come here, they’re off the grind and it’s our job to make sure that they’re in a fantastical space," she says. "That they are happy, they’re satisfied with the food, they’re having a good time, it’s good energy, a good vibe.”

Cavern is located in the historic Phillip Lofts on 104 Street.
Cavern is located in the historic Phillip Lofts on 104 Street. Photo by Athena Raypold.
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