Planning a night out usually involves several steps. Figure out what you want to do, book tickets, decide if you want to go out to eat first, make a reservation… But the Great Canadian Theatre Company has got all you theatre-loving foodies covered with its Chefs & Shows series. They’ve partnered with six acclaimed Ottawa chefs to present a pop-up restaurant experience for one night only during the run of each play this season.
I was lucky enough to attend the first Chefs and Shows for 2017–18, a delicious and thought-provoking pairing of Absinthe Café’s cuisine and Rébecca Déraspe’s modern love story You Are Happy. Chef Patrick Garland’s restaurant is just steps from the GCTC’s front doors, so instead of creating a seating area in the theatre lobby, guests were instructed to present themselves at Absinthe for the first half of the evening.
Future chefs in the series won’t have it as easy, but guests will stay in the same building all evening, which is nice as the weather gets colder.
When you book your ticket for Chefs & Shows, the price includes both your seat in the theatre and your three-course meal. Drinks are not included, so keep that in mind and set some funds aside if you want to enjoy a beverage or two alongside your food. You can also bring your own bottle of wine and pay only a $10 corkage fee, which is a great deal.
Menus are inspired by the plays and showcase the best these talented chefs have to offer. Chef Garland served us trout gravlax (cured fish) with crostini and fennel salad, seared duck breast with carrot purée and local mushrooms, and a gateau Marjolaine with layers of crisp hazelnut meringue, pastry cream, and mocha glaze topped with wild blueberries. My dining companion and I relished every bite. Portions were generous but not ridiculous, and we left satisfied, fulfilling the promise of the tiny sign on our table that echoed the name of the play: You Are Happy.
The next edition of Chefs & Shows takes place Tuesday, November 7 and features Chef Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon restaurant. I’ve dined there and deeply enjoyed this Gold Medal Plate winner’s stunning South Indian dishes. (Thottungal also participated in the stunning Canada’s Table event in August.) If you love boldly flavoured food, this one’s for you, and will warm you through on a cold November night. Playing that evening is the New York City musical Ordinary Days by Adam Gwon, which has earned rave reviews in NYC and around the world.
Next up Chefs & Shows will feature Joe Thottungal (November 7), Tim Stock of Play food & wine (December 5), Steve Wall of Supply & Demand (January 23), Michael Blackie of NeXT (March 13) and finally Chris Deraiche of The Wellington Gastropub (May 1).
Visit gctc.ca for more information or to reserve your spot. All tickets are $110 and include gratuity.