Ottawa chefs ‘take over’ Novotel to honour industry's mutual support

Caroline
Caroline Phillips
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Published on February 22, 2017

From left, Robin Duetta, marketing and special events producer, and Jesse Bell, head chef of The Albion Rooms at Novotel Ottawa Hotel, co-hosted the Takeover Weekend Celebration held at the restaurant on Monday, February 20, 2017, to celebrate the culinary community's cooperative efforts to help one of their fellow chefs during the recent Canadian Culinary Championships. 

Published on February 22, 2017

From left, Charlie Part, co-owner of Chelsea's Les Fougères restaurant, with food expert and author Margaret Dickenson, Chef Yannick La Salle of Les Fougères, retired diplomat Larry Dickenson and Ottawa small businessman Greg Best, one-time board member of the former Epicurean Awards, at the Takeover Weekend Celebration held at The Albion Rooms at the Novotel Ottawa Hotel on Monday, February 20, 2017. 

Published on February 23, 2017

Don Cook, banking advisor with RBC, with his wife, Fiona Murray Cook, and interior decorator Lee-Ann LaCroix, also of Osolee Jewelry, at the Takeover Weekend Celebration held at The Albion Rooms at the Novotel Ottawa Hotel on Monday, February 20, 2017.

Published on February 23, 2017

From left, chef at large Jonathan Korecki with North & Navy chef and co-owner Adam Vettorel, Jesse Bell, head chef of The Albion Rooms at the Novotel Ottawa Hotel, and Frazer Nagy, founder of Transparent Kitchen, at the Takeover Weekend Celebration held at The Albion Rooms on Monday, February 20, 2017.

Published on February 23, 2017

Cathy Dewar, manager of Restaurant International at Algonquin College, with her daughter, Amira, at the Takeover Weekend Celebration held at The Albion Rooms at the Novotel Ottawa Hotel on Monday, February 20, 2017, in celebration of the culinary community's cooperative efforts to help one of their fellow chefs during the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Published on February 23, 2017

Entrepreneurial couple Pete Rainville, founder of Flying Canoe Hard Cider, and Melissa Rainville of Swag Revolution Canada, enjoyed a rare date night – sans children – at the Takeover Weekend Celebration, held at The Albion Rooms at the Novotel Ottawa Hotel on Monday, February 20, 2017.

Published on February 23, 2017

Leave it to Ottawa chefs, from left, Jonathan Korecki, Adam Vettorel, Jesse Bell and Marc Lepine to end up in the kitchen at the Takeover Weekend Celebration held at The Albion Rooms at the Novotel Ottawa Hotel on Monday, February 20, 2017.

Coconut Lagoon on St. Laurent Boulevard has become so busy that its chef and owner, Joe Thottungal, almost missed a party thrown partly in his honour Monday because he had too many customers to serve back at his restaurant.

He did finally get away in time for the Takeover Weekend Celebration co-hosted by marketing and special events producer Robin Duetta and Jesse Bell, head chef of The Albion Rooms restaurant and a graduate of Algonquin College’s culinary program.

The party was held at The Albion Rooms nestled inside the Novotel Ottawa Hotel, near the ByWard Market. Guests helped themselves to a great spread of cheese and charcuterie and to drinks supplied by Beau’s Brewery, Top Shelf Distillers and Creekside Estate Winery.

The annual event recognized the efforts of local chefs to help Thottungal keep his business running while he was away in Kelowna, B.C. for the Canadian Culinary Championships, where he recently won silver. He had qualified to compete after clinching top spot at a cooking contest held during the Gold Medal Plates event in support of Olympic athletes.

Thottungal, who was greeted with cheers and applause upon his arrival to the party, said his success at the competitions has been “very good, very good” for his restaurant, which serves South Indian cuisine. “(It’s) non-stop now,” he added.

Having other chefs pitch in while Thottungal was away at the championship, said Duetta, is a testament to the uniqueness of Ottawa’s culinary community. “There’s more cohesion, cooperation and brotherhood of the chefs here than in any other city in the country,” he said proudly.

The takeover weekend tradition first began when it became apparent that Atelier chef and owner Marc Lepine was going to have to temporarily close his small restaurant – and lose an entire weekend’s worth of precious revenue – in order to compete in Kelowna in 2012 (he won the national championship that year, and again in 2016).

Not only that, but the travel expenses for him and his accompanying team members would run around $10,000. It was Ottawa chef Matthew Carmichael who offered to pull together a group of chefs to “take over” Atelier and keep it open while Lepine was competing.

It’s becoming customary in Ottawa for the winning chef to make him or herself in charge of  organizing “takeover weekend” the following year.  

Duetta, who produces an annual foodie fundraiser for the Shepherds of Good Hope, says area chefs help him raise nearly $200,000 every year for local charities. “Our culinary team in Ottawa is probably one of the largest philanthropic groups that you’ll see in this city,” he remarked.

Attendees included chefs such as Briana Kim from Café My House, Jonathan Korecki, Jason Laurin from Essence Catering, Marc Lepine, Charlie Part and Yannick La Salle from Les Fougères in Chelsea, Que, and Adam Vettorel from North & Navy.

Also there was food expert and author Margaret Dickenson, who’s one of the judges at Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates competition.

Organizations: Algonquin College, Novotel, The Albion Rooms

Geographic location: Ottawa, Kelowna, South Indian Chelsea

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