Good deed served medium rare to truckers in Wainwright

A restaurant owner's offer of a free steak dinner made a good impression this week on an Alberta truck driver.

Restaurant owner provides free steak dinners to hard-working drivers

Alberta trucker Tim Kolkman stands in front of his rig. (Tim Kolkman)

While other Albertans have lost jobs or are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, trucker Tim Kolkman is often on the road for 12 hours or more, travelling far from his southeastern Alberta home in Oyen.

Kolkman hauls canola oil between Alberta and Saskatchewan.

His route sometimes takes him through Wainwright, 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, where he often stops for supper at the Co-op store. On Thursday, that routine took a bit of a left turn.

"I was just about to climb out of the truck and this fellow comes wheeling up there, jumps out of his car, kind of runs up to me," Kolkman told CBC News on Friday.

The 43-year-old thought the man might be looking for directions.

"I didn't know what was going on and then he says he has something for me," Kolkman said. "I was like, 'All right, what's with you?'"

Kolkman warily followed the man back to his car.

"And he pulls out this great big sign — free steak sandwiches for truck drivers," Kolkman said. "He says, 'You follow me to my restaurant.'"

Kolkman did, and soon pulled up at the 1979 Sports Bar & Grill.

The man he was following turned out to be the restaurant's owner, Igor Bojic.

"He comes running up to the door and asked me how I want my steak," Kolkman said.

"About 15 minutes later he and his chef come wheeling out the door and, 'Here's your steak, thank you very much for what you do, and have a safe trip.'"

Kolkman soon noticed four or five other rigs parked nearby with drivers inside enjoying steak dinners.

A long-haul trucker receives a free meal, delivered to him by chef Luis Ayala of the 1979 Sports Bar & Grill in Wainwright. (Igor Bojic)

'Touched by the gesture'

Truckers are a tough bunch but the good deed at a difficult time filled Kolkman's belly and his heart.

"I was very, very touched by the gesture," he said.

Like everyone else in Canada, truck drivers are feeling the pains that come with dealing with COVID-19. At a news conference this week, Premier Jason Kenney praised what he called Alberta's unsung heroes, including "truck drivers who continue to work around the clock."

Kenney said with restaurants closed or offering only drive-thru service, he worries truckers sometimes can't get food or access washrooms on the road.

"We need to keep them fed, fuelled and rested," the premier said.

After his meal, Kolkman posted about the experience on Facebook to encourage friends and family to visit the restaurant. 

His post went much further than his inner circle. It now has close to 6,000 likes and shares.

"I see that and I go, 'Yup, that man is getting exactly what he deserves,'" Kolkman said.

Bojic told CBC News he's just paying back what the community has given him in support since he purchased the restaurant a couple of months ago.

He said the idea came to him after he heard Kenney give praise to truck drivers.

"I heard Premier Kenney saying, 'Please open the washrooms for truck drivers,' and it just hit me," Bojic said.

'I feel blessed'

The 51-year-old decided to go one step further and offer a meal as well. It's the same kindness he experienced when he emigrated from Montenegro to Canada in 1997. 

"We are in a difficult situation and we all have to stick together," he said. "You know this community welcomed me with [a] big heart."

Bojic acknowledged that his timing for buying the restaurant wasn't great but he's still offering takeout and delivery.

"My motto is never quit, never quit," he said. 

"I feel blessed I can do at least something in these harsh times."