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Camp Cookhouse and General Store

This Top Chef contestant just opened a restaurant at a campground visitor centre, and it’s amazing

Leigh McAdam

Travel Alberta

Sep 26, 2017 - 5 minute read

Drive 3.5 hours south from Calgary with the tunes cranked high on an empty stomach. Do this so you can eat in a restaurant attached to the visitor centre in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. I know it sounds weird, but there’s magic happening here in the southeast corner of Alberta. 

Two twenty-something cooks – don’t call them chefs because that’s far too pretentious - named Becky Ross, a Top Chef Canada Contestant, and her partner Alex Bruveris, who trained at George Brown, threw caution to the wind, and in a spur-of-the-moment decision “bought a lemon and fixed it.”

That lemon is now the fabulous Camp Cookhouse and General Store in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

Camp Cookhouse

Becky Ross and her partner Alex Bruveris saw what others didn’t in this formerly nondescript campground visitor centre at Cypress Hills Provincial Park in southern Alberta, perhaps the most unlikely place you can imagine to find a former contestant on Top Chef Canada.

Chris Amat

The park is a geographic anomaly. Straddling the Alberta and Saskatchewan border, it sits on a plateau above the prairies on the highest point of land between the Canadian Rockies and Labrador. It’s here, just steps away from Elkwater Lake, that Ross and Bruveris have created a hidden gem in Alberta’s culinary scene.

The restaurant opened in July 2014 after a whirlwind period that involved a move from Toronto with only a week to get the restaurant ready. The pair purchased the restaurant “to take advantage of a low-risk opportunity that would get us back in Alberta without borrowing a bunch of money. It was also a way to introduce ourselves to southern Alberta, to see what worked, what didn’t, and to learn from mistakes along the way,” Ross says.

The people of nearby Medicine Hat are huge fans, but they aren’t the only ones. Take this gentleman sitting next to us at breakfast. “The food is ridiculous,” he said.

“And in case you’re in doubt, that means ridiculously good.” After devouring a proper stack of feather-light pancakes, topped with smoky butter with a side of real maple syrup, homemade peach preserves and their own bacon, I can’t help but agree. 

When it comes to cooking, the duo is both practical and experimental. They have a strong commitment to buying the best local ingredients they can afford. Their ever-changing menu is based on what’s in season and what inspires them in the moment. Ross wastes as little a possible, stemming from her passion for old cookbooks and old-world techniques from Italy. Bruveris takes a more modern approach, yet they’ve combined both mindsets to create culinary magic.

Who cares about the green stuff when it tastes so good?

What’s on the menu? Burgers rule the day here. Their customers love the tried and true. Anything unusual? Not so much. But guests are saying “I never knew food could taste so good.”

Ross also does her best to trick people into eating more vegetables. Cue the kale hidden in my tagliatella – masked with sausage, ricotta and buttered breadcrumbs.
Who cares about the green stuff when it tastes so good?

Don’t head home without getting their boxed lunch. Ours included a brie, ham and bread-and-butter pickle sandwich along with a beet, celery, apple and potato salad; local carrots and cucumber, homemade potato chips and chicharon and a handful of soft and chewy prune-poppy cookies. Delicious.

Locals want to keep Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park secret so it stays pristine. Ross and Bruveris value the park’s off-the-beaten-path mystique and know it may never get as busy as other areas in the province. But word is getting out as more and more people discover the park and Camp Cookhouse.

Come for a visit before the rest of the world catches on.

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