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Sean, the pandemic highlighted a lot of food insecurity in various sectors. How did you respond?
Our team was fortunate when the pandemic hit to have had a clear idea of how we wanted to help. We created the Staff Meal Initiative to make sure we could feed our peers and grew that into a program that we could share with other restaurants and really affect change throughout many communities.
Doing good things makes more good things happen, and we discovered through the Staff Meal Initiative that there were a lot of families who were looking for good home cooked meals but didn't have access to restaurants or grocery stores. So, the idea behind Collective Goods was really born out of our community teaching us how to take care of each other.
With the inability to cook for people in a restaurant, how did you mindset shift around providing a hospitable experience to your community?
The Family Meals we started making became an outlet for inspiration for me, and connected me to my own family who I was missing at the time. I really got to dive into thinking about how to build meals that could be executed in your kitchen with minimal training, but taste as good as if you were coming into our restaurant. At a time when everyone was scared and unsure, being able to come into people's home (so to speak) and make food was really grounding. In my own life, being able to sit with my family around a table and connect over a nice meal was always the thing that helped center me. We really got to re-imagine hospitality as being beyond the four walls we were used to.
With a space that looks to dine in and send items home, what are you hoping to provide the community with?
Much like with other things, we will look to share ourselves with the community, and then also follow their lead as they learn how the space works for them. But creating access to quality ingredients that they may not seek out on their own is important to me. So much of what happens in a kitchen start with great ingredients. The other thing is sharing education - providing recipes, or pointers on why you need an item, how to use it, etc. The more we can share that makes eating at home easier, the more enjoyable it becomes and the more time it frees up to really be at home with your family. I think about Bob Ross and the Joy of Painting and how he really taught everyone that there was an artist inside them. There's a Chef there too!
As far as the Dine In aspect goes, this will be our first Bistro - drawing on the casual approach, but without compromising quality or hospitality. The Bistro will be a place to treat yourself and enjoy rich, delicious, approachable food with your friends, families, and neighbours - while still getting home in time to tuck the kids in, or binge the Netflix series.
This is the first space that you have a Chef's Table available. When will you be launching that, and what do you hope to achieve?
Who knows when we will launch it - nothing has gone according to schedule so let's just say: when it's ready. I think the Chef's Table will be a place where I get to play a little bit. Once we gain the trust of diners, it should be a spot where you really give over to the experience of letting the Chef and the Somm take you on a journey. There are so many great models around the world that I'm hoping to draw inspiration from, and of course there's our own Form@ dinner series model that I'd like to re-visit - form@ was a themed dinner for 10 where I laid out a single idea and made a multi-course dinner around that idea. The table will be fun - something we can take seriously without taking ourselves too seriously.