Meet Aikens’ New Head Chef
Apr. 09, 2018
Meet Enzo Costantini, the new head chef at Aikens who’s owned and operated two successful restaurants in Manitoba, is a Red Seal chef with 36 years of cooking experience, and used to guide on the Red River. Can you say match made in heaven?
“We are thrilled to have Enzo as our new head chef,” said Julie. “He’s extremely talented with great experience. In addition to opening his own restaurants, in his earlier years he also was the head chef at another high-end fishing lodge. And he loves to fish!”
Indeed, fishing and food are his two passions, the latter of which he fell in love with thanks to his Italian immigrant mother, Franca.
“I’m from a big Italian family, and food is huge with that background,” Enzo said. “As a kid I would watch my mom cook all day to prepare these big Christmas and Easter dinners for 30 and 40 people at our house. She was so good at her craft, and I was fascinated by it. She’d make this amazing homemade lasagna, ravioli and venison cutlets by hand. Watching her is how I first fell in love with cooking.”
So, when Enzo opened his first restaurant in 1992, there was no question in his mind who to hire for his sous chef. Mother and son worked side by side at Sophia’s Grill for over a decade, an era Enzo still cherishes.
Over the years, Enzo has fine-tuned his techniques and created signature specialties. Having worked at one of the finest steak houses in the Winnipeg area, Enzo is a wizard with meat.
“Slow cooking meat has been one of my specialties the last few years,” Enzo said. “I like working with meats, slow cooking the different cuts, brisket, you name it.”
“I know the equipment they have at Aikens, so I’m excited to try a few different things with the smoker, and experiment with a few different ideas throughout the season,” said Enzo. “The ultimate goal is for the guest to have the best meal possible, and that’s what I’ve always strived for. There’s nothing like being up at a lodge in the middle of nowhere, you spend all day fishing and you come back to a nice steak with a double baked potato.”
After working the rewarding but all-consuming hours of a head chef at his own restaurants, Enzo himself can’t wait to spend a summer at the lodge. Prior to this year, he was running the popular Big E’s 206 Grill in Landmark, Manitoba, located off of Highway 206.
Running the family-style restaurant that offered everything from ribs to pasta to pizza to the namesake “Big E” burger was very satisfying to Enzo, but he recently discovered he needs to have both his knees replaced.
Slated for double knee surgery in the fall of 2018, Enzo knew he physically couldn’t continue the +12-hour days at his own estbalishment, so he decided indulge in a fun pre-surgery summer working more regular hours at a fishing lodge.
“I’m so excited to spend this year at Aikens,” Enzo said, adding he hopes to return for multiple years. “The ability to be able to do some fishing at the same time as working, to be able to walk out of the kitchen and be in the middle of nowhere, is absolutely amazing.”
Around home (Winnipeg), Enzo loves fishing for big walleyes on Lake Winnipeg and the Red River, especially greenbacks in the fall. He also jumps at the chance to chase big pike and lake trout, as well as venturing off on muskie trips on Lake of the Woods.
Suffice it to say, this summer Enzo will probably be on the water when he’s not in the kitchen. If you can’t find him though, just call for him and see if a two-legged or four-legged Enzo comes running.
“I know I have the same name as the camp dog,” Enzo said with a laugh. “Hopefully I can tell by the tone of voice who they’re calling for.”