It’s that time again! The city’s restaurateurs, sommeliers, and brewers are finalizing their food and drink menus before coming together for this year’s Bon Appetit Ottawa. The 20th anniversary event looks to be the most delectable yet, with more than 70 participants geared up to impress guests at the one-night-only extravaganza.
Launched by the local movers and shakers within the hospitality sector, Bon Appetit takes a very personal approach to giving, raising funds each year to support charities dedicated to combatting hunger and poverty in the region. In two decades, the event — with help from sponsors RBC Wealth Management & Dominion Securities, Smith Petrie Carr & Scott Insurance Brokers Ltd., Mediaplus Advertising, and Ottawa Magazine and Where Ottawa — has raised over $2 million.
City Bites Insider got all the latest details from Heather Lockwood, Bon Appetit’s super-organized (and super-busy) food and beverage chair. With restaurants and wineries still signing up for last-minute spots, Lockwood had the enviable task speaking with the 70+ participants about what they’re making for the event — and making sure everyone has a spot.
The whole thing goes down on Tuesday, May 3 at the Aberdeen Pavilion, Lansdowne Park. It runs from 5:30pm to 8:30pm and participants can sample fare from 70+ restaurants, caterers, breweries, wineries, and other food and drink artisans. $85 (including a $50 tax receipt) grants you access to all you can eat and drink, prepared by some of the best-known chefs in the city. Details and ticket info: www.bonappetitottawa.ca.
Twenty years! That’s an amazing accomplishment. Have any participants been around since the get-go?
The Courtyard has been with Bon Appetit since day 1. Les Fougères always takes part and is really popular. Mamma Grazzi’s, Biagio’s, and Fettuccine’s have been there from near the beginning, if not the beginning. Once restaurateurs take part, they tend to keep coming back — it’s a really great atmosphere.
Bon Appetit returned to the Aberdeen Pavilion and Lansdowne last year after a few years at the EY Centre. Is it good to be back?
Definitely! People are excited about the 20th anniversary, but also to be back at Lansdowne. It’s so central — just that much easier to carpool, walk, bus or taxi out there. And of course the Aberdeen Pavilion is such a beautiful building.
Let’s talk about what’s new. I hear you’ve launched a new wine and food pairing system. Tell me about that.
It’s great! Basically, I’ve organized the various vendor booths so that Bon Appetit feels like a series of small shows within the larger show.
Give me an example.
So, for instance, we know that Michael Sunderland of Michael’s Dolce will be at the show with preserves, so we might pair him up with one of the cheese companies, one of the bread makers, and maybe a sausage company. Then I’d look at what beer or wine might work well. So all these booths would be located together — great for the food and drink people and great for guests!
So you ask the vendors to tell you ahead of time what they’re bringing?
Exactly! What types of foods, what wines, what desserts and coffees. Then I pair the food and beverage booths so that visitors don’t have to go far to get food and drink that complement one another. It makes it easier for guests to maneuver the show floor.
Can restaurants provide food and drink at one booth to ensure the very, very best match?
Yes, I think a few participants might do this. DiVino Wine Studio, for example, does an amazing gnocchi, and because they obviously know their wine, they’ll also have a pairing at their booth.
What are a few businesses you’re super-excited about this year?
It’s so hard to choose! The restaurant scene in Chelsea/Wakefield is amazing so I’m excited to have Chez Eric here this year. And we’re always looking for more desserts, so having Stella Luna serving gelato is excellent. Coconut Lagoon [whose chef, Joe Thottungal, took bronze in the prestigious Gold Medal Plates competition in 2015] is coming this year. On the drinks side, we’ve got SoCIAL LITE Vodka, which recently scored a deal with Arlene Dickenson on Dragon’s Den. They’ll be premiering a lime-ginger sparkling vodka.
So some interesting drink options beyond wine and beer?
Wine and beer are obviously popular, but we’ve also got a brand-new local company showcasing their hard cider; we’ve got a Montreal company serving up a maple cola; Harvey & Vern’s soda will be back. It’s great that companies are looking to launch new products at Bon Appetit.
And you’ve got some “double booths” for people to look for?
Yes, Chef Bruce [Wood] from Beau’s will be showing off their beer and cuisine so he’ll be prepping food on-site at their double booth. Signatures Le Cordon Bleu is planning to have two booths — one with a savory appetizer and one with a sweet. Les Fougères will be taking over two booths. It’s always fun to watch the food being prepared by the chef.
How do you get your ideas to improve the show year after year?
In my line of work, I go to wine and food events across the country. So I’m always looking at new ideas. I’m constantly trying to reinvent and improve. And because this is Bon Appetit Ottawa’s 20th anniversary we really need to set the bar high!
What makes Bon Appetit special?
It’s an amazing evening, but it’s also the very personal nature of Bon Appetit that makes it special. The board members and the volunteers come back year after year because they really believe in what they’re doing. We keep in touch with the organizations that we help — they let us know how they spent the money and how many lives Bon Appetit has changed. It’s such a good feeling.
And it’s a great deal.
It’s an incredible deal! For $85, you get a $50 tax credit and the chance to mix and mingle. And everything’s included once you get in — food and drinks of all sorts. We’re just gearing up and nailing down the final vendors and final touches. When I look at the lineup, I just say “Wow, if I’m this excited, I know the people walking in will be, too!”