By Paula Roy –
Six Ottawa Chefs will be presenting pop up dining experiences at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) starting in September. The brainchild of Chef Michael Moffatt and Thyme & Again’s Sheila Whyte, the pop up dinners will offer a select number of theatregoers an opportunity to enjoy a unique combined dining and theatre package.
“We have discovered that we are not really in the restaurant business,” explains Andrew Soobrian, GCTC’s marketing and education manager. “For various reasons it has never really worked out and another permanent restaurant in our lobby was not what we were looking for. When Michael and Sheila brought us this concept, we knew the time was right. Pop ups are so much fun and they’re super trendy right now.”
Having previously hosted several successful pop up dinners, including a recent collaboration with Chef Marc Doiron of town restaurant and Dominion City Brewing, Andrew is confident that next season’s pop up dinners will sell out quickly. “We did a survey at our last pop up and discovered that 70% of those in attendance had never been to GCTC. We like the idea of partnering with different chefs to increase their exposure and at the same time potentially reaching new theatre audiences.”
As the creative force and curators of the pop up dinners, Sheila and Michael sought out the participating chefs and were pleased by how quickly positive responses came back. Participating chefs will include Pat Garland of Absinthe, Katie Brown Ardington of Beckta, Marc Lepine of Atelier, Arup Jana of Allium, Marc Doiron of Town and Jon Svazas of Fauna, who is also about to open a second restaurant in Hintonburg.
Chefs will soon be given the chance to select which of next year’s productions they’d like to work with; each chef will present one weeknight dinner during their chosen play’s run. “Every restaurant participating is chef-driven and offers very personal cuisine; I expect the chefs will get really creative and connect their menus to the plays, which are themselves diverse and interesting,” says Michael.
“We are really hoping these dinners will be unique experiences,” he adds. “The magic that people want is right there in front of you because of the open kitchen.”
Sheila notes that it’s been fun interacting with the chefs and explains that Thyme & Again’s function will be to support the pop up dinners as needed. “My role, and Mike’s, is to not only curate this collection of events but also facilitate it and move things forward. We both love this neighbourhood and think these pop ups will add a lively, community-building element.”
“Part of GCTC’s strategic plan is to become more collaborative so this project fits well with that,” notes Andrew. “We’re planning six nights throughout the season but if demand is strong we will probably look at expanding the program. We’ll be rolling out more information in the next month or so as planning progresses.”