BY CHRIS DIAS. PHOTO BY CHRISTOS SAGIORGIS
CLAYTON RIGGAN DOES NOT CONSIDER HIMSELF A CHEF. HE IS MISTAKEN.
“I feel that term gets thrown around pretty loosely and should be earned only after years and years of fighting on the front line with your fellow cooks,” he says. “Any smooth-talking food network junkie can walk into a restaurant with little to no experience and jump to the top.” What Clayton speaks of is not dissimilar to writers—that one can only be called such when christened by another writer. “You need to earn the respect of your co-workers, and I’ve fought many wars over my years, but that word always makes me uncomfortable.”
Clayton Riggan is the man dashing behind the pass-through at Hummus Brothers, currently attached to the Treasure Cove Casino. Despite critiques and criticisms, Hummus Brothers has survived, though not unscathed. And I know that…because I was one of the ones who scathed them.
This is neither a review nor an absolution of the past. Consider it more a celebration of an optimistic future. When I began writing about local restaurants, one of my earlier reviews was Hummus Brothers before their relocation. Back then, it’s full name claimed it a tapas bar. I’ve had tapas; it’s a broad category, though with some very specific requirements, many of which Hummus Brothers lacked. Admittedly, I was hard on the restaurant back then, having yet to restrict my subjectivity. However, one common point among my three reviews (I was thorough) was the high quality of its food. Someone in the kitchen knew how to cook. I only recently discovered who.
Clayton Riggan took on his first restaurant at the age of 21, a local pizza place called “Growlies”. Later, he spent ten years as a bar and kitchen manager for the Keg steakhouse, where he would meet close friend and future partner Kent Jomha. After a year of culinary training at The Art institute of Vancouver, in the summer of 2007, Kent and Clayton opened their own catering company, though eventually realizing the need for their own space to accommodate demand. Thus, Hummus Brothers was born in the spring of 2008.
“Coming from a franchise background to a locally owned restaurant is tough because you are up against the big boys with deep pockets. Everyone thinks running a restaurant is an easy money grab, but it’s really long hours that usually takes its toll on your family life.”
No one will question Clayton’s dedication. Hummus Brothers survives and strives, entering its eighth year, even returning for lunch services, Monday-Friday, 11:30-2:00. Clayton and company are also planning on themed events at the restaurant (a Mexican night, a Japanese barbecue bash, and wine tasting dinners). However, the biggest change is with Clayton himself, moving from the back of house to the front, taking control of every aspect of the restaurant, hoping to bring a renewed energy to the restaurant through contests, events, and other social media promotions.
That shows dedication and passion indicative of being a chef. Clayton may not call himself one, but I think it can be presumed. “Don’t worry,” jokes Clayton, “we aren’t going to call ourselves a tapas bar again!”