JOHN JACKSON + CONNIE DESOUSA
co-chefS + co-ownerS, CHARCUT Roast House, charbar restaurant, Rooftop Bar @ Simmons, Alley Burger
Co-chefs for Life – Not only are these two chefs driven to succeed in their own initiatives, they are wired to give back. Both are actively involved in community, reaching out to support many important social issues that touch the lives of so many Canadians that can throw off our ability to maintain a healthy day-to-day balance – life threatening illnesses, mental health issues, equality in the workplace, poverty – using food and their talents to create awareness and help those in need. Restaurants for Change, Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance, Alex Community Food Centre, are a few of the culinary charities they work with. As well, with a personal connection, they are both ambassadors for the Enough for All campaign, raising awareness for poverty in Calgary. When not buried in work, you will find them celebrating moments together, making family memories within their CHAR-family. John’s passion and intensity, and Connie’s innocence and curiosity make for the most genuine and hilarious banter that will catch you off guard in the best way possible. Co-chefs for life, this duo will keep you entertained while inviting you to challenge yourself to find the balance that surrounds your table.
John Jackson - An accomplished chef and co-owner of 4 successful, award-winning restaurants, and other business ventures, John Jackson has been a leader and a mentor to so many young chefs and entrepreneurs dedicating his time to changing lives and nourishing those around him.
Growing up in poverty, he started cooking at the young age of 15, out of necessity, where he realized that, in a kitchen, social status did not matter and the way to get ahead was to focus, and work hard. He set out on a steady, ambitious career path, travelling and working in some of the world’s most well-known restaurants, attaining success with his many awards, nominations and notable achievements.
John studied sausage-making in Italy’s Marche and later landed at the St. Regis in New York. John was given the opportunity to open the prestigious Mobil 5-star St. Regis Hotel in San Fransisco, California. After the successful opening of the St. Regis, John continued to open multiple restaurants under the Starwood name including the Lagoon by Jean George in Bora Bora. In 2009, it became clear that it was time to return home to Calgary. Along with his wife, Carrie, and co-chef, Connie DeSousa, they opened CHARCUT Roast House where they pride themselves in bringing an evolved, but simple approach to dining in the truest Canadian farm-to-table fashion. The restaurant was quickly named Canada’s Best Restaurant and continues to top the list.
After CHARCUT, came the opening of charbar in 2015, an Argentine-inspired restaurant with Italian and Spanish influences where the parilla wood-fired grill warms in the heart of the restaurant. Located in the historical building along the Bow River in the reestablished East Village of Calgary, the Simmons quickly became the focal point for cyclists, runners and families exploring the Riverwalk community, and was named Calgary’s best new restaurant for 2015.
John’s passion for food and business is strong, but his love for cycling is what drives him, most recently completing a 2-day ride for Ride to Conquer Cancer raising funds for cancer research and awareness. Riding 200kms per week, he manages to fit his cycling into his busiest days. His magnetic energy is contagious, sharing encouraging and passionate stories to fuel those around him.
Connie DeSousa - Celebrated for her butchery skills and simple approach to food you will recognize Connie DeSousa from her appearances on Top Chef Canada, and most recently Top Chef All Stars. She is one of Canada’s most celebrated female chefs with both an empathetic, yet fierce, approach to her work, life and fitness. Connie is driven to succeed. Once she sets her sight on a goal, she accomplishes it. An avid runner, Connie just completed the NYC marathon and achieved her personal best as she sprinted across the finish line. Connie’s ambition stemmed from her humble roots, growing up in an immigrant community in SE Calgary with her Irish mother and Portuguese father who worked hard to achieve success.
Cooking was infused into a young Connie as was her love for sausage making and large family get-togethers where food was what brought them around the table. Graduating from the top of her culinary class, she met her mentor, John Jackson, and instantly she knew they had a partnership for life. Connie has challenged herself to compete in many culinary competitions around the world, including the prestigious Chaîne De Rotîsseurs in South Africa, placing 4th in the world, and participated in the World Culinary Olympics in Germany. Working internationally, staging at well-known restaurants around the world, mastering nose-to-tail butchery, cultivating relationships with farmers and artisan producers, and challenging the social norms of women in the professional kitchen Connie has dedicated countless hours to her craft.
Now, a single mom, co-owner of 4 successful restaurants, mentor to young chefs and women in the industry, as well as a fitness advocate, and community ambassador, Connie’s success relies on finding absolute balance. In every challenge Connie approaches she desires to fit more minutes in every day, but still manages to defy time and space.