City Bites

INSIDE SCOOP: Chef Mike Moffatt talks about gezellig, Steve Beckta’s third restaurant, opening in Westboro later this year

Executive Chef Mike Moffatt adds a third restaurant kitchen to his list of responsibilities. This one is set to shake up the Westboro dining scene.

The ink has barely dried on the lease for 337 Richmond Road and we are already clamouring to know what will be on the menu of the new Westboro restaurant — the third sibling to join the Beckta and Play family. Steve Beckta announced last week that his new place will be called gezellig, a tricky-to-translate Dutch word that refers to things (and people and places) that create a cozy, homey, quaint, and comfortable vibe — it’s also that warm, relaxed feeling you get when surrounded by great people.

It comes as no surprise that Chef Mike Moffatt will be the executive chef. He remains at the helm of the kitchen at Beckta, where he has been for nine years, as well as at Play Food & Wine, where he has been running the kitchen since its inception in 2008. We snatched a few minutes by phone with Chef Moffatt between lunch and dinner service to chat about the new challenges ahead.

City Bites: What do you think of the name gezellig?

Michael Moffatt: I laugh when people ask me what it means. I say, “Ask Steve!” It’s great. The name and what it means defines what we’re going for really well.  My definition is “convivial spirit.” After a while, the word will just become the name of the restaurant. Like Beckta — I still meet people who don’t realize that it’s the name of the owner.

CB: So how will this restaurant be different from the others?

MM:  We’re really trying to bring our style to a neighbourhood restaurant. By reputation, we’ll end up with lots of destination diners, but we really want the restaurant to serve the [Westboro] neighbourhood. We’re using the traditional dining model — appetizers, main courses, desserts. There will be some sharing plates.

CB: Is it going to be in the style of a gastropub?

MM: I don’t see it that way. I don’t like labels. The only label I want to achieve is good food. Gastropub to me has a more casual feel and I’m imagining a space that’s more upscale-casual.

CB: Will you use the same suppliers for ingredients?

MM: At Beckta we have about 55 different suppliers. I mean, there’s one guy who brings me ramps — that’s it. We use about 2/3 of the same suppliers at Play because we have greater volume and we concentrate the menus. This one will probably fit somewhere in the middle.

CB: What are you most excited about with the new place?

MM: It’s another chance to express myself creatively. I just like to feed people and make them happy. It’s exciting when you finally see staff taking on new roles and growing. I’m really proud of the training I’ve done. It’s a great new adventure and a giant new nightmare.

CB: Have you started thinking about the menu yet?

MM: I didn’t want to think too much about the menu until the location was set. I think it would have been a different style if we had ended up on Elgin or in the Glebe. Being in the West end — it’s where Steve lives and where I live — it’s a nice intelligent crowd and they know what they like. I look at my neighbours and they’re looking for a great restaurant that they can walk to. A place you go if you happen to get a last-minute sitter and you don’t feel like driving downtown.

CB: Where do you seek inspiration for dishes, concepts? What’s inspiring you most these days?

MM: My inspiration comes from the people I work with. I work with a lot of talented people and they come to me with new ideas and new experiences. My job is to make sure those ideas fit within our program. We’re not going to go in a ton of different directions and we’re not trying to be everything to everyone. We’ve got a strong hospitality package [at Beckta] and we’ll export the key components.  It has worked with Play.