December 10, 2023

Ryan Smolkin, the Ontario entrepreneur best known for founding Smoke’s Poutinerie who passed away Sunday, will be honoured in Ottawa this week.

Mark Cunningham, the company’s chief operating officer and Smolkin’s successor, said there has been an outpouring of love and support from people across the country following the news of his death.

Cunningham told Global News his attention was on building and preserving the legacy Smolkin leaves behind.

“There’s many parts of what he did and what we will continue to do on behalf of Ryan to really kind of build the legacy,” he said.

One fan of the restaurateur said in a post on the company’s website, “you can never ever forget Ryan, his motivation and energy for life, and especially for Smoke’s Poutinerie, is unbeatable.”

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Smolkin, aptly referred to by staff as the company’s “chief entertainment officer”, had a passion for rock n’ roll, something the brand will continue to use in marketing, Cunningham said.

Smoke’s Poutinerie was founded in 2009, with its first store opening on Adelaide Street West in Toronto.

Since then, the multi-faceted company has expanded across the province to roughly 100 locations.

This was all part of the plan, Cunningham said.

“Ryan said from day one, the first restaurant he opened, it was going to be global domination,” he said.

Cunningham also said a core part of the company’s values, and a practice of high importance to Smolkin, is philanthropic work.

“He’s one of those entrepreneurs who has a big heart, always interested in giving back,” he said.

The company’s annual “eat off” challenge done in partnership with charity for children with disabilities We Care will be renamed in Smolkin’s memory.

The president and COO said he will be honouring the late poutine creator in Ottawa Thursday, but Smolkin’s legacy will continue to drive the company into the future.

“The Smoke’s Poutinerie rock n’ roll gravy train is not slowing down, we’re fuelling it, though he’s not in the engine room driving,” Cunningham said.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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