Calgary

Jebb Fink serves up fresh pasta with a side of laughter at Crossroads Market

Semi-retired funnyman Jebb Fink still makes people laugh — especially those who walk up to his stall with a confused look on their faces, wondering where they recognize him from.

Funnyman whips up BBQ sauces, fusilli and ramen to customers who might recognize him from his TV days

'I was basically retired from everything except stand-up, and I needed something to do,' says comedian and cook Jebb Fink. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Calgarians who have been here for more than a decade may experience a disconnect when they see Jebb Fink making pasta in his new space at the Crossroads Market.

Most of us know him as the comedian who made us laugh every morning on A-Channel alongside Dave Kelly — and before that on 2&7, Calgary 7, Global and City TV.

But these days, he spends most of his time in the kitchen and behind the counter at Jebb's Joint.

With 20 years of on-air experience, Fink hosted CBC's Just for Laughs and has performed across North America for decades. 

He still makes people laugh — especially those who walk up to his stall with a confused look on their faces, wondering where they recognize him from.

One thing not many people know about Jebb Fink: he's a really good cook.

Jebb's BBQ Juice was Fink's first foray into the food industry. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Failed food truck experiment

The barbecue sauce he's been making at home for years to give as gifts — Jebb's BBQ Juice, it's called — was his first foray into the food industry.

Leaving television (he still does comedy and live gigs, but isn't on the road much anymore) freed up some time, and one Christmas someone suggested he make extra to sell at the Market on Macleod.

"I was basically retired from everything except stand-up and I needed something to do," Fink said. "I'm not the type of person who should have free time on his hands, because I don't spend it wisely. In fact, I spend it very unwisely." 

His sauces were a hit, and Fink made the move to a food truck, but soon discovered the challenges of winterization and operating a kitchen on wheels.

"Mostly I repaired the truck," he said. "I was a pipe-fitter, a plumber, an electrician … I did very little cooking." 

Here's a take and bake lasagna from Jebb's Joint, complete with fresh pasta sheets, homemade sauce, and cheese from Say Cheese! (Julie Van Rosendaal/Twitter)

Like 'a giant Play-doh fun factory'

When this past fall a friend who owned a pasta company at the market decided to move away, Fink offered to take it over.

"He was going to put this 400-pound pasta machine in the back of his Honda and drive it to Halifax," Fink said, "and I was like, why don't I just buy it from you?"

Fink had been making his own pasta at home for years, but it took some tweaking to get a feel for the larger scale.

"It's like a giant Play-doh fun factory," he says of the pasta machine, which has attachments to make different shaped noodles, from fusilli to ramen.

"The hilarious thing is, after running it for a while somebody said, how do you know when it's ready to turn out? And my only answer was, 'it looks right'. The dough depends on the flour, the humidity — it has to be the right balance.

"I have more than once in the learning process emptied the entire hopper by hand and started all over again."

Showing the audience a good time

These days, Fink makes hundreds of pounds of pasta (and even fresh ramen noodles) a week — all sold fresh, never frozen or dried.

The meats and sausages for his homemade sauces come from a butcher at Lina's, and he gets cheeses from Say Cheese!, also in the market.

There are pasta dishes to pick up and eat there (they can get mushy if transported home to reheat later) and lasagnas to take home and bake yourself — he makes them with his own pasta sheets, meat sauce, asiago, buffalo mozzarella, regular mozzarella and Parmesan.

As with comedy, he's focused on the experience — on showing his audience a good time.

"I say it's two servings," he said of his lasagna. "But people come back and say, 'It was too much food, but it was so good, I couldn't stop eating it.' That's the goal."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.

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