We sat down with Calgary-renowned chef and owner of Foreign Concept, Duncan Ly, to learn about the new hot spot and his journey to opening up his own restaurant.
Ly has been a chef for 20 years and while working through the ranks as a dish washer, cook, sous chef and chef between Tofino and Calgary, he has always had a vision of one day opening his own place.
“Once I became a chef and partner of Hotel Arts’ Raw Bar, I was just one step closer,” Ly says. “In the summer of 2015, I woke up and thought ‘I am ready. If I am going to do this, this is the time.’”
Ly’s inspiration for Foreign Concept was borne out of a true appreciation for his cultural background and passion for innovative cooking.
Ly was born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and Chinese father and while he grew up with Asian food and flavours, he was never classically trained in that cuisine.
“Because I was trained in French cuisine, I wanted to explore something that tied in all worlds – being Vietnamese, Chinese, Canadian – and that’s what Foreign Concept really is,” he says.
Foreign Concept officially opened its doors in Strategic Group’s Paramount Building on December 17, 2016 where Ly runs a dedicated team of 25, and hiring!
“I am very happy to be here; my number one priority was location. I walked by the space all the time, but I never really thought about it. I love the area, but I thought the space was maybe a little too big,” he says.
I decided to check it out one day, came in, and did what you “shouldn’t do” when looking for a place. I fell in love with it immediately and just knew this was the new home of Foreign Concept.”
Ly says his biggest challenge so far has been adapting to the many roles he now has to play.
“I’m not just a chef anymore, I am the owner too,” he says. My eyes have to be on everything – Accounting, HR, Operations, but my heart is and always will be in the kitchen.”
While all entrepreneurial ventures face their own challenges, Ly couldn’t be happier of his decision and says Foreign Concept is just the beginning.
“It will always be my first baby, but I plan to build Foreign Concept not only as a restaurant but as a brand.”