Back on the Menu
June 09 2020
Over the past few months, chefs have been pivoting and re-strategizing their restaurants’ approach during these times of uncertainty. While many operations have been forced to close, others have made quick, real-time transitions to offer takeout and delivery in order to survive.
Now, for some, it’s time to start planning for when they reopen their restaurant’s doors. Here are how chefs across Canada are preparing their menus as they get ready to welcome back guests in the coming weeks.
Chef Jeff Kang – Canis Restaurant, Après Wine Bar, Kang Bang Fried Chicken, Toronto, ON
During their temporary closure, when the pandemic restrictions first began, Chef Jeff Kang had quite a dilemma.
“Most of my team members at Canis weren’t from Toronto, so they decided to move back to the cities where they are from. I had two restaurants that I couldn’t operate without my staff.”
As a result, Chef Kang decided to partner with Chef Edward Bang to open not one, but two pop-ups. At Chef Bang’s Omai, they launched Sushi Notomai to provide fresh takeout and at-home sushi options. While at Chef Kang’s Après Wine Bar, they started Kang Bang Fried Chicken to offer delicious Korean fried chicken, kimchi and refreshing, rare wine selections to-go.
Since government regulations in Toronto are not yet permitting dine-in service, Chef Kang is currently working behind the closed doors of Canis and Après Wine Bar so both restaurants are ready when the time comes to open.
“[For] when we open Canis and Après Wine Bar, we are thinking of changing a few things. At Canis, we are going to add a smaller tasting menu. Meanwhile, at Après Wine Bar, we are thinking about going back to my roots and serving Korean food, inspired by my childhood memories and travelling back to Korea over the past few years.”
Chef Renée Lavallée – The Canteen and Little C, Dartmouth, NS
Known for its petite, casual patio and quick to-go options, Chef Renée Lavallée’s The Canteen remained dedicated to serving hungry locals, even if the dining room wasn’t permitted to be open.
After much planning, this restaurant was turned into a community kitchen powerhouse, pumping out over 500 packaged meals per week. These dishes were then provided to The Grove Dartmouth and Margaret’s House, two charitable organizations with an emphasis on feeding those in Halifax who are in need.
“We also opened the doors at Little C two nights a week to do takeout for those who have missed us,” added Chef Lavallée. “We’re always brainstorming to come up with some fun and functional ideas.”
Little C is the sister location to The Canteen, serving customers only two blocks from the original restaurant.
“We are bringing some fan favourites to you like our Crobster, Double Patty Burger, Chowder, Scallops and Risotto. So, we’re really excited about reopening in a few weeks; however, we do want to take time to make sure that what we’re making is extra special for everyone here in Nova Scotia.”
Chef Elycia Ross – Lil’ Truck on the Prairie, Calgary, AB
As Top Chef Canada competitor Chef Elycia Ross pondered what her fifth Calgary summer operating Lil’ Truck on the Prairie would look like, she knew it would be a sticky situation.
Since Calgary’s summer season is fairly short, Chef Ross knew she’d have to adapt to withstand the effects of pandemic related shutdowns in the city.
“We’ve been focusing on smaller events, like weddings (50 people and under) and pay-what-you-can events in the city. This makes us more accessible to different demographics, especially during this difficult time.”
Chef Ross and her partners, Teagen Nelson and Adam Dakin, have been planning drive-thru events and volunteering to feed children who are unable to claim the meals they had previously relied on from their local school programs. Chef Ross acknowledges that many other locals and families have been feeling the financial crunch of recent weeks. Her approach to serving them has been simple, familiar and affordable.
“We’re doing easier menu items like roast chicken dinners, which are more economic in terms of pricing and something that most people enjoy. We’re also going to offer our Short Rib Poutine, sourcing ingredients from a local meat supplier. We’re trying to support as many small businesses as possible with our menu options.”
Chef Paul Moran – 1909 Kitchen at Tofino Resort & Marina, Tofino, BC
Since March 17th, Chef Paul Moran faced the reality of having a completely closed restaurant with the cease of operations at 1909 Kitchen due to the pandemic.
Now, nearly three months later, he’s jumping back into action with not only the reopening of the Tofino Resort & Marina establishment’s doors but also new menus and programs.
“With three dining rooms and three patios, we have the great advantage of having a lot of space to work with,” said Chef Moran.
While there are far fewer international visitors expected than during previous years, Chef Moran is shifting his menu to entice and please the tastes of the predicted influx of local visitors; a capture of the flavours of Western Canada using more local ingredients.
“We’re going to have Albacore Tuna Tacos made with locally caught tuna and radish wrappers. It’s a new twist on an ingredient that has been around our area for a long time. We’re also going to be featuring a play on fish and chips with a gently baked cod served on a crispy potato rosti with aioli. The cod will be prepared using our wood-burning oven, something we’re looking to use a lot more often in creating our dishes.”
Upon re-opening, 1909 Kitchen will also be launching delivery and takeout for the first time.
“We’ll be offering the entire menu for takeout so people can get a cool meal and be able to take it to the beach or wherever they like to relax. Can’t wait.”