Breakfast & Lunch Cafe By Day, Supper Club By Night – The Concept Space and Food Experience at The Depanneur, Part I

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"Where interesting food things happen"

Have you ever been to a place that makes you feel so inspired, so excited, and so at home that you can’t believe it hasn’t always been a part of your life?  A place that makes you feel so full of life that all you want to do is soak in everything that goes on around you when you’re in this space?  If you have, you know the amazing sense of warmth and comfort I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, I’m about to tell you about the best foodie discovery I have made since I started Ate by Ate.  No wait, scratch that, the best foodie discovery I have EVER made.  I KNOW, this is a big deal!  You all know how I feel about finding gems around the city so when I say I’ve found a holy grail, you know it’s a monumental phenomenon.  Not only have I found a wonderful, exciting food spot in the city that serves healthy, delicious eats, but encompasses everything I love about food.

The Depanneur, located on College Street between Dufferin and Dovercourt, isn’t just an eatery that serves weekend brunch, organic food, and daily breakfasts and lunches.  It’s a concept space.  A breakfast and lunch cafe by day; a supper club by night.  The Depanneur holds workshops, cooking classes, serves breakfast and lunch, hosts themed dinner parties, provides an open kitchen space for passionate lovers of cooking and food, and functions as a launching pad for food entrepreneurs and independent food businesses.  I am so happy I got the chance to sit down with Len, owner and brains behind The Depanneur, to talk about the space and its contextual situation within the greater food community.

At the very heart of The Depanneur is community and accessibility: building relationships between neighbours, passerby, supper club members, chefs, and foodies; creating and maintaining an open, accessible space for budding bakers, chefs, and food entrepreneurs; introducing independent businesses and their products to the greater community; providing the community with healthy, organic food choices; and utilizing the cafe and kitchen space as a catalyst for change.  Change in the way we think about food experiences, and change in how we see our relationship to cooking and eating.

Known as the Rusholme Park Supper Club (named after the road the space is situated by), The Depanneur’s supper club is a huge part of Len’s enterprise.  On average, Depanneur hosts 6-8 supper clubs a month with different themes (Japanese home cooking!  Vegan TV dinner!  Mexican Mole!) and the idea behind these dinner events is to make cooking and eating more personal, more intimate, and more transparent.  Each supper club has 20 spots available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Those who are interested in upcoming supper clubs can sign up for Depanneur’s newsletter and mailing list or keep up-to-date with events through their Facebook page.  The dinner is an intimate, family, communal-style affair where everyone sits together around a large wooden table and watches as the chef prepares a meal right in front of all supper club attendees.  The chef then sits down and enjoys the meal with everyone there.

It’s a beautiful concept because it involves the idea of reciprocity in SO many ways.  The Depanneur basically hosts community dinner parties that offer an eating space and kitchen to budding chefs, and to anyone who just loves to cook and share their passion for food.  Chefs are reimbursed $20 per guest (therefore up to $400 if all 20 spots fill up) and it is entirely up to the chef how they wish to use the money.  They have complete creative freedom and control over the menu, ingredients, and how they wish to allocate their funds.  In a sense, the supper club is a stage in which chefs who aren’t necessarily professionals can shine and share their work and creativity in a positive, open environment. 

In addition, aside from the kitchen counter work space, there is no separation between the cafe space and kitchen.  Everything is completely accessible and transparent.  No frosted glass, no barriers, no hidden cooking.  The chef(s) can see you and you can see the them hard at work.  This type of space thus fosters a rich learning environment where supper clubbers can ask questions, learn about the ingredients and dishes, and so on.  It encourages discussion and it allows the relationship between guests, and between chef and guest, to blossom.

Finally, the act of joining the guests for dinner means that everyone involved has the opportunity to soak up the supper club experience.  It removes the sense of alientation that seeps in when one doesn’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labour so to speak.  The Depanneur gives those who wish to cook for an audience the opportunity to put on a delicious show, the chef in turn shares their passion and food with supper club guests, guests are able to provide feedback, and everyone is given an unforgettable eating experience.

There is so much more to The Depanneur and this is just the beginning!  I haven’t even begun to scrape the surface on all the wonderful things this space provides, but writing about the supper clubs is a start!  I’ll have part II for you all tomorrow where I’ll be talking about some of their workshops and classes, the rental kitchen, and yes, the delicious food!  I love this space and I am so happy I stumbled upon it several weeks ago.  I might just take the plunge, jump in with both feet, and use The Depanneur as my own cooking and baking launching pad.

*****

The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.