The pandemic forced all food-related enterprises to rethink the way they operated. From food security to improved technology to the desire for unique experiences, we look at five new concepts that offer a glimpse into the future of our local food scene.
Rebels in the Kitchen
It’s educational and entertaining, and it’s Lebanese. Chef Rawan Al Wadaa, a former Beckta pastry chef, and her partner Don Charette launched Rebels in the Kitchen in 2019 as a cooking class/catering service.
The duo pivoted to online classes after the pandemic hit, outfitting their home kitchen with professional cameras and designing a cook-along series. (Check out their “Rawan Reacts” series for a taste of her humour and passion.) But they always dreamed of a more immersive experience and are now offering retreats in Luskville, the new home of Nafas Culinary Retreats.
With 63 acres of agricultural land and existing attractions such as blackberry bushes and waterfront trails, the couple are planning farm-to-table experiences and other exciting opportunities for urban foodies to connect with nature.
Food for Thought
Food for Thought feeds everyone! This non-profit started in 2019 to bring the talents of local chefs into the fight against food insecurity.
President Sylvan de Margerie started by renting commercial kitchens, using products donated by food banks to prepare warm, flavourful meals that were served at a community centre that doubled as an internet cafe. The lockdown saw them working out of Thali, Joe Thottungal’s downtown eatery.
Then, in the spring of 2021, De Margerie and his team got a new permanent kitchen and unveiled a new plan: with every meal purchased, another meal would be donated. A revolving lineup of chefs means the meals are top-quality, and menus are posted weekly.
This fall, Food for Thought obtained charitable status, surpassed their goal of providing 1,000 meals a day, and saw their head chef be awarded the Order of Ottawa.
“Restaurants need to keep up with the experience economy,” says Frazer Nagy of Tablz, a new made-in-Ottawa tool that aims to help restaurants take advantage of their biggest asset: their dining room.
Nagy has worked in most areas of the restaurant industry, notably at Social and Eighteen; he says food costs and staffing challenges will mean higher figures on the menu. But how to increase profits without scaring away customers with huge price increases? The idea: charge more for the best tables. Restaurants that use Tablz allow reservations to be made on a specific table — for a price. He says it makes the booking experience more transparent.
“Consumers are ready for this,” says Nagy, who has teamed up with Steph Scrivens, formerly of Signatures, Fauna, and the Michelin-starred Marcus in the UK, to develop Tablz. “Imagine a group of sports fans keen to get a nice big table with a clear view of the big screen. Everyone would pitch in $5 to make sure they got the experience they wanted.”
As takeout continues to boom, the technology gap continues to widen, says Ben Lacroix of Getitlocal, a new app that aims to help Ottawa restaurants.
According to Lacroix, traditional apps such as UberEats charge 30 per cent on each order; Getitlocal skips the backend fees, charging a simple monthly fee of $99. Consumers pay $5 for their delivery. Getitlocal also touts a fair hourly wage for drivers. It seems to be working: Getitlocal has grown from six staff and 10 businesses to 20 employees and 100 businesses since it launched in January 2021.
And finally, because there is reason to celebrate the simple as well as the high tech, let’s pause to enjoy the visual stimulation of this bouquet of edible flowers, the first, welcoming course at Alice, Briana Kim’s chic restaurant in Little Italy. It’s a perfect representation of the creative bounty that exists right under our nose