By Arielle Follett
In the heart of Little Italy lies a small, unassuming and homey restaurant cooking up signature gourmet comfort food.
A step inside reveals stylish decorations, with classy low-lighting and a beautiful wood bar. Chalkboard signs all around the restaurant are adorned with the day’s specials.
The restaurant is the Rex and it is run by Algonquin grad, Cody Starr.
Starr’s passion for cooking began at the age of 17 when he had his first meal at popular Ottawa restaurant, the Urban Pear.
“My meal there opened my eyes to food,” he said.
Starr started at the bottom, working as a dishwasher before getting his education at Algonquin.
Bruce Wood, a former Algonquin professor who taught Starr during his time at the college, enjoyed teaching Starr.
“He was an excellent student, one of the ones that you really remember,” he said.
After finishing at the college, Starr got his first chef job at Stoneface Dolly’s but the ultimate goal was to work at the Urban Pear.
After applying three times, Starr finally achieved his dream and was hired. He started at the bottom once again but stayed for five years, ultimately ending up running the kitchen.
Starr’s dreams didn’t stop at Urban Pear. A new goal was soon born – to open his own restaurant.
The restaurant is named after his grandfather, a classic 50s gentleman who inspired the “modern Mad Men” décor of the year-old restaurant.
“I want this restaurant to be like your grandparent’s house, but hipper,” said Starr.
Classics like Sheppard’s Pie and mac and cheese mingle on the menu with remixed poutine with shredded duck confit and thyme-infused duck gravy. The restaurant’s Instagram account is filled with colourful pictures of food and special limited-time menus. Every piece of the restaurant has Starr’s passion shining through.
“Cody puts his heart and soul into this thing,” said Mark Dorion, more commonly known as Doc, sous chef of the Rex. “He really takes it all on himself.”
Starr’s next goal is to hopefully become a teacher at Algonquin himself a few years down the road. He truly believes in the program and wants to pay back to it.
“The combination of my time at Algonquin and my restaurant experience gave me the confidence to do this,” said Starr.
Professor is a future goal but the immediate goal is success for the Rex.
“I truly believe that my food is good, but my business sense needs work,” he said. “The first year is just figuring everything out. Year two is about making money and I hope we succeed.”