There’s a culinary movement happening in Ottawa and it’s not where you’d expect. Inventive artisan food business are springing up the likes of Pascals All-Natural Ice Cream that I found at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market; Stone Soup Foodworks is a food truck you’ll find on the street serving up amazing soups; making celebrities out of farmers is the Michael’s Dolce line of jams – there’s even a Peach & Cardamom Jam made with Torrie Warners (Beamsville) fresh peaches; The Piggy Market specializes in delicious charcuterie and meats using every part of the pig and; The Red Apron.
Two ladies Jennifer Heagle and Jo-Ann Laverty had a lot in common when they sat next to each other on the bleechers to watch their sons play sports – food! Both passionate foodies, these ladies now run a unique food business called The Red Apron (www.redapron.ca) on Gladstone Ave in Ottawa.
It all started out by wanting to help friends and family with fresh, wholesome meals so they could spend the time communing around the dinner table at the end of a busy day.
In the 5-short years they have moved 3 times, each time growing into larger facilities. Now, they’re in an open, state of the art kitchen facility with a retail storefront that fills with irresistible savory aromas that make their customers swoon. So welcomed is their concept of home cooked, comfort food meals that their sales have tripled in their new location.
The menus are seasonal and their ingredients are made from local and organic ingredients. They buy beef from Fitsroy Farm, Berkshire pork from Perth Pork Products, chicken from the Eastern Townships of Quebec, trout from a neighborhood trout farm and fresh organic produce from 5 different local suppliers like the Vegetable Patch. They’re urban gardeners that manage 12 gardens in the city. One third of the harvest goes to the homeowner for letting them use their land and the rest is sold to eager customers – another unique food business.
As much as the girls love to play in the kitchen with new recipes and different flavour combinations, their customers often insist on their favourites. The Mid Week Dinner club is the full meal delivery program that runs from Tuesdays to Thursdays and they definitely hear from their customers if Braised Beef Shepherds Pie with 2 Year Old Raw Milk Quebec Cheddar is not delivered on Tuesday or if Thursdays meal is anything but Pulled Berkshire Pork with Organic Macaroni & Cheese. Over all 20 different dishes are made each week and sold either through their Mid Week Dinner Club, the Savvy Single Service or through the retail store.
“It’s just as easy to make a dinner for 20 as it is for 2, just scale it up” says Jo-Ann who in a single day actually feeds 500 people – that’s more than any chef in a fancy restaurant.
So who buys upscale comfort foods that ooze with flavour? It seems almost everyone from empty nesters to career professionals, single people, pregnant women and superwomen who try to do it all, people who are convalescing and the elderly. I know if The Red Apron were closer to my home, I’d be right there enhancing my week day meals not only because it saves my cooking time in the kitchen but it would take me weeks to source all those amazing local ingredients. It seems that Ottawa is brimming with good taste these days.