In its heyday, Granny Bogner’s was the place to be for fine dining in Penticton, where you had to make reservations if you wanted to get a seat.
But after more than 35 years of serving up some of the finest food, hosting celebrations of all kinds and serving things like filet mignon, roast duckling and baked oyster casino, the heritage restaurant will be no more, destined to be demolished to make way for a three-storey office building — a rather dull ending to a location with so much history.
The recent decision (that is still making its way through city council) has one former sous chef reminiscing about the restaurant in its best days.
Frank Cosgrove worked at Bogner’s back in the 1980s when it was called Granny Bogner’s working under chef and owner Hans Strobel, a Parisian-style chef with an impressive resume. The German-born chef moved from the Bahamas to Penticton to transform the heritage home into the restaurant of his dreams.
Strobel bought it in 1976, taking it from a seniors home to one of the Okanagan’s finest restaurants and naming the fine dining establishment in honour of his Granny Bogner. The front of the menu carried a picture of her.
The whole renovation was a labour of love, one that Strobel helped create with his own hands along with the help of well-known Vancouver architect Dave Vance, said Cosgrove. The goal was to keep as many features of the 1915 home as possible including the impressive dark wood beams, fireplaces and stained glass.
The location was unusual to say the least, given it is smack in the middle of a residential area.
But its reputation quickly gave way to reservations-only with a guest list of Penticton’s who’s who, said Cosgrove.
Cosgrove worked at Granny Bogners for over eight years, along with his sister Angela Cosgrove who was the front house manager for more than 20 years.
Back then, before chain restaurants had taken their foothold, chefs were revered in the community. Granny’s had a name for itself not just in Penticton but around B.C., said Cosgrove.
Granny’s even headlined in Skyward magazine which appeared on airplanes across the skies.
Strobel made his own sauce every morning and baked his own bread. He also was responsible for the manicured gardens out front of the Eckhardt restaurant.
Despite the popularity, Strobel refused to open Sundays and Mondays, even though people begged him to, said Cosgrove.
“He was out in the front gardening one Sunday and people pulled up and said can we make a reservation? He looked up at them and said, ‘I’m just the gardener. I can’t help you,’” Cosgrove recalled.
Everyone came for the duckling, salmon and veal, double pork chops and foie gras, too.
He said there was a lot that went into a meal service at Bogner’s.
There were the linens to be ironed, the sauces and house dressing to be made, including their own vinaigrette and hollandaise. The Caesar dressing was made at the table in front of the guests.
Even the plates were expensive, coming from Ireland, he said.
“We were all careful not to break any,” said Cosgrove.
Another popular menu item was ‘Oma’s Special’ of hearts of palm, lettuce, tomatoes and avocados, served with the house dressing for $3.50.
“My kids still demand I make that for them,” said Cosgrove.
Cosgrove said his sister swore the old house was haunted.
“You could feel it,” he said.
Angela kept a menu from the early 80s where filet mignon would cost you $12.25. Broiled lobster tails were a bit more at $15.95. Soup du jour was just $1.95.
Sadly, Angela passed away from cancer but not before giving her mom and now Frank the 1980s menu, the Skyword magazine and a pencil sketch of the outside of Granny’s sketched by a employee back then.
It’s a collection of memories that Cosgrove holds dear.
The now retired chef said his work at Granny Bogner’s gave him a leg up to get other cooking jobs because ‘they knew if I worked at Bogners I could cook.’” After 26 successful years, Strobel sold the restaurant and it changed hands twice, with Darren Paterson, the executive chef carrying on its reputation for farm-to-table menu items.
The proposed office building that will replace the restaurant is going to public hearing on Feb. 7 due to a land use contract set in 1976 that said the land was to be used for a restaurant and heritage-style property and to be maintained as a restaurant.
Built-in 1915, this Tudor-style home was the family residence of Penticton Dr. Herb McGregor. Located at the corner of Eckhardt and Argyle, this heritage house was turned into Granny Bogner’s Restaurant in 1976 by world chef Hans Strobel along with partners Mike and Stephanie Welsman who bought it. Strobel eventually bought them out and ran Granny’s until the late 2000s when he retired and sold it.
Strobel named it Grannys after his grandmother (Oma) who was also a chef who raised him in the Black Forest area of Germany. Sometime after Strobel sold Grannys, the name was changed to Bogner’s.