Smoke’s Poutinerie Founder and Chief Entertainment Officer Ryan Smolkin, 50, died Oct. 29, after suffering unexpected complications from a recent surgery, according to a company press release.
Smolkin, who formerly owned one of Canada’s top branding and design companies with a roster of industry-leading clients including Nike, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Sims Snowboards, Molson Breweries, Corus Entertainment and YTV, founded Smoke’s Poutinerie in 2009. His goal was always “GLOBAL DOMINATION,” a strategy he often shared with other industry leaders. In fact, he keynoted the annual Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in Louisville in 2019, according to Cherryh Cansler, editor of FastCasual and emcee of the event.
“He donned his trademark red-and-black plaid hunter’s hat, sunglasses and hunter’s shirt and gave a show that filled the room with laughter,” Canlser said. “He ran across the stage, played air guitar and sang demonstrating the secrets to succeeding in the restaurant business — entertaining people. He could energize an entire room; he was one-of-a-kind and will be missed.”
Smolkin’s team said that although it will never fill the emptiness left from this loss, it will continue to fuel his dream, the Gravy Train, with the passion and care that he has instilled in each of them, building on his vision of “Global Domination.”
“As directed by Ryan prior to passing, we are pleased to affirm that newly appointed President and COO Mark Cunningham will take the lead seat on the Gravy Train,” stated the press release. “Mark and the whole team will ensure that it is business as usual with the same goals, vision, and direction that Ryan built the brand on. In Ryan’s own words, ‘Nothing Stops the Gravy Train!'”
One of his other passions was his relationship with We Care, whose goal is to raise money to send kids with disabilities to fully accessible Easter Seals summer camps across Canada. In 2016, Smolkin created the CEO Challenge in support of We Care, where leaders of the food industry sign up to raise money and compete in a friendly Poutine Eating Challenge. The event is held annually during our World Poutine Eating Championship and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for We Care.
In his memory, this event will now be known as “The Ryan Smolkin CEO Challenge in Support of We Care.” Smolkin became a director of the We Care Board in 2018 and never stopped thinking about the kids. In lieu of flowers he requested a donation be made in his memory through this link, to help send a deserving kid to camp.
Founded in 2009, Smoke’s Poutinerie has over 150 locations.