Wednesday, February 17, 2016

CIES Family Tree - Kuldip Dhillon

Courtesy of International Avenue's BRZ

Once a part of the CIES family, always be part of the CIES family. Having been around for nearly three decades and serving a quarter of million clients over that time, not to mention the thousands of volunteers and hundreds of employees that have been with us over nearly 30 years, and our extended family is a force to be reckoned with here in our city. Kuldip Dhillon is one such story having volunteered with CIES some 20 years ago, way back when we were known as Calgary I.D.E.A.S.

Having lived in Canada for the past 40 years, Kuldip Dhillon has seen her fair share of recessions. But the owner of Skylark Restaurant has a simple philosophy for dealing with the ups and downs of the economy... “Always hope for the best. Always think positive and everything will fall into place. Just keep working.”

And that’s just what she did. After coming to Canada with a B. ED (Home Economics) and a Masters degree in Political Science from her native India, Kuldip started on a career in banking in Saskatchewan. Upon moving to Calgary she obtained an ESL diploma and did volunteer work with Calgary Ideas. But there was something else that she wanted.

“It was always in my mind to have a restaurant,” she says. “Cooking is my passion. I think it’s in my blood.”

So when her friend Naresh saw a restaurant for sale on International Avenue, they formed a partnership that was to last a quarter century. Skylark Restaurant allowed Kuldip to mix her passion for cooking with her ambition to be a business owner. The restaurant specializes in East Indian (Punjabi) cuisine, home-made using Kuldip’s own recipes. Kuldip, however, always asks her customers how spicy they would like their food... a simple act which she believes keeps them coming back.

“I always ask people how they would like their food... from mild to extra hot. Otherwise they wouldn’t enjoy it. I still have customers from 27-years ago.”

Among the many dishes that help keep customers coming back are her famous butter chicken (her best seller), as well as tikka masala (boneless chicken cooked with bell peppers, onions, tomato sauce and spices), malai kofta (veggie balls), kadahi paneer (Indian-style cheese cooked with bell peppers, onions and Indian spices), Tandoori chicken, pakoras, samosas... the list goes on and on. A great way to get a taste of some of the variety available is to sample the Tuesday through Friday lunch buffet, complete with butter chicken and kheer (rice pudding) for desert!

In addition to offering a huge variety of menu items six days a week, Skylark also specializes in East Indian sweets, including burfis (a dense, milk-based confectionery), gulab jamun (round balls made with cheese and milk, deep fried and dipped in syrup then served warm), milk cake, jelabi and more.
And if this wasn’t enough, Skylark also offers catering services. The restaurant also does a large number of Indian weddings, well known for the huge number of dishes on offer to the family and guests. Butter chicken, chicken curry, goat curry malai kofta, kadahi paneer, shahi paneer (vegetarian), dal makhni (black beans cooked with spices, ginger, garlic, onions, garnished with butter and cilantro), pakoras, samosas, fish dishes, chai, juices, sweets and many other items go into catering weddings with often several hundred guests.

One might think that Kuldip (literally) has enough on her plate. But in addition to all these demands, she also wants to take courses in payroll and bartending to enhance her business.

Although her business partner, Naresh, left the business to pursue other opportunities after 25 years, Kuldip has continued on, loving what she is doing, with no plans to go anywhere else.

“I love this area. I lived here for 13 years,” she says. “My mother still lives here.
“I have never had any problems in 27 years. The people here are good people. I will never leave this place.”

Skylark is located at #15, 5315 17 Ave SE and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Check their website at for hours and menu items.

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