History of Ernest's
NAIT's dining room has been an integral part of the Department of Culinary Arts and Professional Food Studies since 1963. It provides Culinary Arts students with critical real-world skills while providing Edmontonians with a first-rate dining experience.
"A good part of my career was in the food industry. Food has always been near and dear to our family's heart. So this was something to do to honour the history of the family."
- John Hokanson, son of restaurant founder Ernest Hokanson
In 2005, the dining room was renovated as part of the new Hokanson Centre for the Culinary Arts. Renamed Ernest's, in honour of the father of principal benefactor John Hokanson, the decor has changed, but the quality remains the same.
Restaurant named after an Edmonton food industry pioneer
Ernest Hokanson was born in 1920 in Edmonton to Swedish immigrants. He quit school in grade 7 at age 15 and got a job washing pots at the Hotel Macdonald, which soon launched his lifelong passion for food.
After years with the hotel chain, a military career brought Ernest overseas during World War II, where he met his war bride.
Upon returning to Canada, Ernest became a restaurant owner in Peace River, where he eventually got into oilfield catering. After a number of successful ventures he sold his last – HG Caterers – to his partner in 1980 and retired. He passed away in 2001.
Creative cuisine, hyper-local ingredients
Many of the herbs and microgreens in Ernest’s delicious dishes are local. In fact, some are grown just a few paces from the dining room in the kitchen’s Urban Cultivator. The size of a large fridge, this high-tech mini-greenhouse can grow sprouts, basil and other tasty herbs year-round.
Achieving critical culinary acclaim
Critical acclaim and numerous accolades identify the haute cuisine prepared by second year Culinary Arts diploma students as outstanding. OpenTable diners have awarded Ernest's in 2016, 2017 and 2019 among the Top 100 restaurants in Canada. Seasoned chef instructors emphasize the importance of using high quality local regional products.
Mastery of traditional cookery combined with contemporary artistry has resulted in a truly electric cuisine. Elegant service is provided by eager students who are part of the Hospitality Management program. An emphasis on etiquette and authenticity is encouraged through the guidance of professional mentors.