A graduate of Red River College’s Culinary Arts Honours program, Chef Jesse Friesen has never slowed down, no matter the climate of Winnipeg’s weather or food scene.Read Bio
When Club House for Chefs last spoke to Chefs Brian Cheng and Alanna Fleischer, COVID-19 protocols had called for a cancellation of events, impacting their business two-fold. As the operators of The Edible Story in Toronto, they were now losing not only bookings for their event space but also off-site bookings for their catering services.
Pivoting their passion for food, the pair began offering themed meal boxes: shawarma, protein, salads, tacos, poke bowls, and more. These were made available in Toronto and GTA via pick-up and contactless delivery, and came with some perks that will be helpful come the time Toronto events relaunch themselves.
“In this change of what we’re offering, we’ve been able to reach more, and different, people. Unless you were invited to a particular event or hosted an event, you wouldn’t have had our dinner. It has expanded our reach to new clients and new people have heard of us. Loyal customers have also come out of this,” says Alanna.
While the boxes started as being for four, the chefs eventually changed them entirely to be for two, which was the larger demand at the time.
“Our whole idea was for people to get a lot of food at once and keep it in the fridge, but people don’t really see takeout like that. They just want to eat it and get something else next time. Thankfully, we have that flexibility because we’re a small team and have the infrastructure,” added Brian.
“Two weeks ago, we started a personal meal thing, kind of like a meal prep, where there are individual portions, so we’re slowly moving into that too. That’s the current market for takeout.”
As for the challenges that have come up for The Edible Story, aside from the loss of events, Alanna notes the difficulties that have come directly from product sourcing.
“Everything is kind of closed or hard to get to. You can’t show up and browse for supplies, everything is virtual showings or email communication. If we run out of takeout boxes, they’re back-stocked until July. We even lost a produce supplier who went out of business completely, and it’s difficult to properly meet new suppliers when you can’t go out and meet anyone. You’re used to going, touching and seeing, but now you’re trying to figure it out digitally and fast.”
Thankfully for the team, along with the summer sunshine, distanced events are slowly making a comeback, allowing The Edible Story to begin taking catering orders once again.
“People are ordering catering drop-offs for 6-10 people, for example, or arranging for 80-person parties in 10-person blocks over x number of hours. Summer is already looking busy and we’ll see where the demand goes for both the catering and the boxes. Hopefully next year, we’ll be doing in-person events again,” Alanna explained.
With optimism for the future, Alanna parted with these positive words for her fellow foodservice operators and workers.
“Keep on pushing, there is an end. We just need to all get vaccinated and it will return to normal. We know what we all want, need and we will be better when we’re out of this [situation]. When everything comes back, it’ll come back harder, stronger and everyone will be so excited with a renewed energy, especially toward events. They’re such a novelty right now that we’ll all really appreciate.”
To stay inspired, like Chefs Alanna and Brian, read up on flavour trends, culinary connections and foodservice industry news: https://www.clubhouseforchefs.ca/en-ca/flavour-news