Eating & Drinking

Trudeaus’ chef Katie Ardington leaves to helm Beckta empire — kicks off historic menu for May!

Katie Ardington is back. She returns from a stint cooking for the Prime Minister’s family to take over as executive chef at the Beckta trio of restaurants — a place she has been before, though not in the same role.

Katie began as a cook at Beckta in 2005, impressing thousands of diners (and her co-workers) as she worked her way up the ranks with increasingly creative gigs — a stint as sous-chef at Play led to her being promoted to chef de cuisine there, before taking on the heady role of chef de cuisine at Beckta.

Then, in early 2017, Katie took her talents to Rideau Cottage, cooking for the Trudeau family. It was, she says, a totally different experience. But, while she enjoyed the work, she missed the comradery and craziness of the restaurant scene.

“One of the big things that brought me back is that I like being part of a kitchen and part of a team,” says Katie.

And so it seemed like fate when, a few months ago, Stephen Beckta called to tell her that the prestigious executive chef role was opening up (longtime Beckta/Play/Gezellig executive chef Mike Moffatt is now working with the ever-expanding Thyme & Again mini-empire).

“I actually planted the seeds at Katie’s going away party when she left to work for the prime minister!” says Stephen Beckta. “When Katie left, it didn’t feel final final. I said, ‘I bet that you and I are going to work together again one day.’ So much of my life and career has been based on serendipity. The world provides the answers you need. When Mike [Moffatt] left, Katie was the only person I had in mind for the role.”

And, as to that role?

“The three chefs at Beckta, Play, and Gezellig design their menus, but Katie will have input and collaborate with them. She is going to make all three restaurants even better,” explains Stephen.

Venison Striploin with juniper demi-glaze, chestnut puree, buckwheat honey, brussel sprouts and grilled figs. This is one of Ardington's signature dishes
Venison Striploin with juniper demi-glaze, chestnut puree, buckwheat honey, brussel sprouts and grilled figs. This is one of Ardington’s signature dishes

“I’m excited to push to make each restaurant even more individual,” adds Katie. “So, for instance, I want to do everything we can to really highlight that Gezellig is a homey neighbourhood restaurant with food to match. And Play, like its name, has to be the playful place, with sharing plates and dishes that really make a conversation. Beckta, obviously, is fine dining, so I’m always focusing on the service and making sure every little aspect of the cuisine is refined and elaborate.”

May’s Anniversary Menu

Beckta turns 15 this month, and a planned dinner on May 11 and 12 celebrating the anniversary with favourites from across the years has already sold out. But because there’s a “real hunger to enjoy historic dishes,” Beckta will be offering a “best of the last 15 years” 5-course tasting menu for the rest of May, according to Stephen. It will run May 13-31 [Cost $98 per person, with an optional $52 wine pairing]. The menu draws on favourites from across the years — from former Beckta chefs Mike Moffatt, Steve Vardy, and Dirk McCabe, as well as current chef Shane Brown and executive chef Katie Ardington. 

Lake Erie Pickerel with roasted fennel, snow peas, brown butter spatzle, fennel fronds and a chorizo vinaigrette
Lake Erie Pickerel with roasted fennel, snow peas, brown butter spatzle, fennel fronds and a chorizo vinaigrette