Interview and Photo by Jason Setnyk
Cornwall, Ontario – In the heart of Cornwall, Ontario, lies a culinary gem called Schnitzels European Flavours, a restaurant that has become a beloved fixture in the city’s dining scene since its establishment in 2006. Behind this savory success story stands a dedicated individual, Hassan Rafiei, whose journey from a young pizza enthusiast to the sole owner of this European-inspired eatery is nothing short of inspiring.
Born and raised in Cornwall, Hassan Rafiei’s roots run deep here. His education took place in the French public school system, where he attended Rose des Vents and L’Heritage. During his formative years, Hassan’s passion for the food industry began to flourish. At 14, he embarked on his culinary journey, working diligently at Pizza Pizza in Cornwall until he was 18.
Hassan’s unwavering dedication to the hospitality sector led him to pursue higher education at La Cite Collegial in Ottawa, where he specialized in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Armed with knowledge and experience, he ventured back to Cornwall and found his calling at Schnitzels European Flavours. Joining the restaurant as a host at 19 years old, Hassan’s journey with Schnitzels had only begun.
Over the next 14 years, Hassan Rafiei’s commitment and love for Schnitzel’s European Flavours grew. In 2015, he took a significant step in his culinary career by investing in the business. His passion and dedication paid off, and by October 2019, Hassan had risen to the position of sole owner, marking a turning point in the restaurant’s history.
Schnitzels European Flavours has become a Cornwall institution and a testament to Hassan Rafiei’s unwavering commitment to quality and innovation. The restaurant’s menu, inspired by the streets of Europe, Schnitzels offers a tantalizing array of options, including wood-fired pizza, a large selection of beers on tap, expertly crafted cocktails, pasta, salads, appetizers, and of course, schnitzels.
For those eager to experience the culinary delights curated by Schnitzels European Flavours, you can contact the restaurant directly by dialing 613-938-8844 for any inquiries or reservations. If you prefer digital correspondence, their dedicated business email, [email protected], is at your service.
To visit Schnitzels in person, the establishment is conveniently located at 158 Pitt Street in downtown Cornwall, Ontario. For a comprehensive look at their offerings, menu, and any updates, you can explore their official website at www.schnitzels.ca. Additionally, stay connected with Schnitzels European Flavours through their social media channels on Facebook and Instagram, where you can stay up-to-date with their latest creations, events, and more.
Five Questions with The Seeker
1 – When did you start your business?
“Schnitzels was started back in the early 2000s. The original owner was from the Czech Republic. He started the restaurant on Airport Road in Summerstown, Ontario. The original owner got into business with Leon Sabourin, and they decided to move the small restaurant to the downtown core at 158 Pitt Street, the old location of Papa Gedoros. Schnitzels has now celebrated 16 going on 17 years of business in the downtown core.”
2 – What is unique about your company?
“What makes us unique compared to all the other restaurants in Cornwall would be our wood fire pizza oven and having the most beer on tap. We also have our own private banquet hall to accommodate large events up to 50 people.”
3 – What is the most important lesson you learned since you first started?
“The customer does not come first. Employees do. Take care of them, and they will take care of your business. And quality over quantity. Do not try and be rich today but for the future. Serve the best product possible, and that will ensure you have satisfied customers coming back.”
4 – What’s the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
“The biggest challenge for me was taking over a business right before COVID hit. It took all the dreams I had for the business and threw it out the window. Like every other business, we had to change how we functioned and lay off most of the staff. We did everything we could to ensure the doors stayed open. Because of the staff, the doors are still open, and I thank them all for this.”
5 – What is your philosophy concerning customer service?
“Our philosophy concerning customers is to provide the best service possible. Pretend every customer that comes through those doors is your best friend and that you want to make sure they feel good after they leave. Give them the experience they are looking for. Make them forget about their terrible day and make them enjoy the moment. We are in the business of making people happy.”