KEN'S FRIES KEEPS COOKING AFTER LOCAL COUPLE PURCHASE STRATFORD STAPLE
Ken's French Fries
Article Published on: November 9th 2020
The Beacon Herald by Cory Smith
Ken’s Fries has been a Stratford staple for nearly 70 years, and a local couple intends to keep it that way after purchasing the business.
Kimberly Hurley and Anthony Jordaan, who own two other restaurants and a grocery store in the city, want to maintain tradition while incorporating new ideas.
“Just knowing what we could do with it and trying to bring back what it was, (that) was sort of our motivation behind buying it,” Hurley said. “Knowing it’s been here since 1953, I feel pretty proud to take over that legacy and keep honouring it for what it was.”
Hurley grew up in the city and has fond memories of going to Ken’s, which, until Market Square was developed a few years ago, had a prominent place in the city’s downtown core.
“You didn’t care if you were waiting in line because you could smell french fries for days,” she said. “It was a thing we’d do as a family, after sports or something, just go stand in line.
“I had explained the whole Ken’s history to Anthony and what it meant to Stratford.”
Jordaan grew up in South Africa and is the head chef at Braai House, which the couple opened to complement Keystone Alley, which they’ve since rebranded as The Alley.
“We bit into this apple and took a big bite out of it,” Jordaan said. “I’m feeling the pressure more now because I’m starting to understand it was really a part of the fabric of this town.
“I want to do people proud and make sure they can still relate to it as a childhood thing they grew up with.”
One truck will be stationed in the Canadian Tire parking lot, where it will be open seven days a week. It will serve fries the way it always has, with plenty of salt and vinegar.
A second truck – Ken’s Black Sheep – will offer standard fries plus poutine and hotdogs. More options could be added in the future.
“Just some really great quality comfort food,” Hurley said.
That truck will rotate between the parking lot at KW Surplus on Huron Street and the old Hasegawa Clinic at 156 Waterloo St., with other mobile options in the works. Details, including hours, are still being finalized and can be found on Ken’s social media pages.
“We like bringing joy to people all the time, even in a pandemic, so if we can do it safely … it’s nice to know we can still serve people that way,” Hurley said. “It was kind of a no brainer given the (COVID-19) climate. We can even expand what we offer. If the restaurants had to shut down (because of the pandemic), we could incorporate some of our food from there in the food trucks as well, so it gives us other alternative avenues.”
Hurley and Jordaan have already been getting feedback from longtime customers, many who remember when the truck used to drive around city streets to sell spuds.
Some menu items will be recognizable, like the family pack – with extra fries dumped into the bag. Ketchup will also be available, which has caused a bit of a stir on social media, Hurley said with a laugh.
“As long as people understand it’s not because we want to change a legacy,” she said, “but within those (nearly) 70 years things have changed.”
HIGH ON BRAAI: STRATFORD RESTO A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE IN SOUTH AFRICAN - INSPIRED FOOD
Article Published on: November 4th 2020
Waterloo Chronicle by Andrew Coppolino
In South Africa, don’t call it barbecue: it’s “braai.”
It’s also the name of a relatively new Stratford restaurant that’s a unique experience in South African-inspired food in these parts.
“Cooking on a wood fire is part of the fabric of the culture,” says Braai House co-owner Anthony Jordaan, who was born in Worcester, a town in the Western Cape, about 120 kilometres northeast of Cape Town.
“Braai is generally something you do with family and friends. A casual get-together where you throw some meat on the fire,” he says.
“It’s outdoor cooking, but people also have a braai in the house.”
Jordaan, who has a culinary background including restaurant work in Zambia, and his wife, Kim Hurley, had the opportunity in early 2016 to buy Keystone Alley.
They gave the Stratford restaurant and bed-and-breakfast in a 100-year-old building a minor facelift in 2017, but soon overhauled it extensively to reshape it into Braai House.
The aroma of wood fire lingers in the air, inside the building and out. There’s glass, stone, light and a wall of reclaimed wood along with an illuminated back bar. Fire wood is stacked, and the ambience is accented by a heady perfume from the hearth and fire.
There’s a lounge and fire place where people can sit, but that’s not being used right now because of COVID-19, says Jordaan.
Like all restaurants, the dining room design has been rerouted in a pandemic direction. Physical distancing and Plexiglas dividers between tables along with safety and cleaning protocols — including small containers of Braai-branded hand sanitizer — is the new normal here.
Reinvention and infrastructure overhauls, including finding the design and engineering chutzpah to expand a patio for 12 to add 25 physically-distanced seats, became a necessity this past summer. Pre-COVID-19, seating inside Braai was over 70; it’s now it’s just under 50.
The battle is being won, however.
“Thursday night to Saturday night have pretty much been sold out,” says executive chef Arron Carley.
“People are intrigued by what we do. We’ve been seeing a lot of traffic from London, Kitchener and even Toronto.”
It’s an experienced crew at Braai, including two well-known names in the industry: Yva Santini, formerly of Pazzo Taverna, and Jonny Kirwan, who’s worked in South Africa, take care of beverages, cocktails and wines.
The open kitchen, a custom-made pizza oven and the flames and coals of the braai are the purview of Carley.
The live-fire wood-burning hearth with adjustable grates and cranks and pulleys, similar to the one at Kitchener’s Rich Uncle Tavern, and the new cuisine represents a redirection for Carley, who moved from the Bruce Hotel about six months ago. Carley has also staged at Noma, in Copenhagen, and cooked 54 floors above Wellington Street at Canoe in Toronto.
South African restaurants like Braai are few and far between in Ontario. Carley relishes using new techniques and new ingredients from Africa — but the fire is the key, he says.
“Learning how to tame the braai and use that wood fire is something else. You have to understand the wood and how it burns before you cook anything.”
On a busy night, when the fire is really rocking, the cooking surface reaches absurd levels of heat. “It’s a temperature you can blow glass at,” says Carley. “It’s just a crazy amount of heat you have to manage.”
The kitchen also uses a gas- and wood-fired pizza oven for pizzas that feature “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and “some of the best Mozzarella you can buy,” says Carley.
Heat management, yes, but opportunity too: Carley gives albacore tuna a wood-fire char and adds Egyptian dukkah spice. Chili-lime scallops have a smoked chili oil, and marinated and grilled zucchini comes with smoked prosciutto.
The biltong (South African “beef jerky”) shares a board with local cheeses and house-made condiments. Cauliflower “wings” are crisp morsels with peri peri spicing and a smoked pepper dip. There are bobotie spring rolls and boerewors sausage on oniony chakalaka relish.
Carley and Jordaan refer to the niche they’re building as “new South African” cookery that includes the flavours and techniques of countries like Ethiopia and Morocco, for instance, though the focus is on South Africa and the things Jordaan says he grew up with.
“The great thing about South African cuisine is that it’s a mix of an array of cultures and countries in one,” Jordaan says. “We are putting a spin on these dishes and elevating them a bit. It’s unique to Stratford, and we want it to be a destination for something different that people want.”
But both want the experience to be more than a Stratford one: despite the pandemic, they are working to stake a claim on a larger culinary map, says Carley. Just don’t call it barbecue, Jordaan adds.
“If you go to South Africa and say, ‘Let’s have a barbecue,' people would laugh and say they don’t know what that is. It’s braai.”
Braai House is open at 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.
KEN'S FRENCH FRIES 2.0
Ken's French Fries
This business was founded in 1953 in Stratford starting with one truck that was painted white. Since then it has changed hands a couple of times, with Keystone Hospitality taking over!
Keeping the ever loved “Ken’s French Fries” name, it will be reinvented with a twist. Visit the main location in the Canadian Tire parking lot at 1093 Ontario Street here in Stratford. The second location will alternate locations to cater to the different scenes throughout our city.
Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see the new and improved trucks, menus and locations!
Event with Covid times being what they are, the plan had always been to reinvent the Keystone Alley, a Stratford favourite.
Keystone will be reopening as “The Alley”; with a new style of food, completely renovated interior as well as the obvious name change, everything that has been planned and created will continue to shock and awe.
Based on the amazing response received from our Braai House guests, be sure to make a reservation for The Alley well in advance. With our dedication to social distancing, sanitization and health unit protocol requirements, we will be able to maintain our momentum through these trying times.
WE HAVE EXPANDED!
With adding more businesses to our little empire, we are pleased to announce our very own hospitality group: Keystone Hospitality. Encompassed is Braai House, The Alley, The Little Green Grocery, Ken’s French Fries and Keystone Hospitality Offices.
Keystone Hospitality pays homage to the three decades of the Keystone Alley restaurant, named for the Keystone Bakery from decades before. It was taken over 5 years ago by Anthony Jordaan and wife Kim Hurley. With Anthony’s experience as a chef in South Africa (his home roots) and Kim’s roots being in Stratford, they have created an atmosphere of dining and shopping that was an immediate staple in the city.
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see updates as we continue to grow our hospitality family.