Last year, Jonathan Poon and Jacob Wharton-Shukster, along with Woodlot’s Jeff Connell, ran a series of popular, mainly industry-attended dinners held at The Bellevue in Kensington Market, which afforded the (then) unknown restaurateurs the opportunity to exercise their creativity without having their own place. Now that Poon and Wharton-Shukster have launched Chantecler (to some acclaim), the trio has thrown the series open to the public (the Bellevue, meanwhile, is running its own Monday-night series, focusing on chefs currently without a kitchen). We dropped by to check out the first dinner of 2012 on Monday, a 14-course collaboration between Poon and Jeff Claudio of Yours Truly, complete with beer, wine and cocktail pairings.
“When we started Monday’s Dinner [at The Bellevue], it was a fun thing to showcase some chefs without a kitchen,” Wharton-Shukster tells us. “Now we have the resources to do it at our own facility and can bring other chefs in. Everyone gets to swap new techniques, do things they don’t normally do and have the chance to work with each other.” Upcoming guest chefs, who’ll be working with Poon, include Basilio Pesce (of soon to open Porzia), Dustin Gallagher (consulting at Riverside Public House), Guy Rawlings (consulting at Bellwoods Brewery) and Jason Carter (ex-Centro). The dinners will be held on the last Monday of each month, with Wharton-Shukster managing the front of house and Connell pouring from a unique repertoire full of non-LCBO natural wines from the Loire Valley and Niagara. The whole thing costs $80 a head—not a bad deal, considering that includes beverage pairings and tax (but not gratuities).
Although each bite, snack and course of the summer-focused Claudio-Poon dinner was a collaborative effort between the chefs, both Wharton-Shukster and Shane Harper (pastry chef of One and Fabbrica) noted it was still possible to discern each chef’s individual touches on a given plate. “It’s exciting, fresh and gives everyone energy,” Wharton-Shukster says. “It energizes the restaurant especially, in this market where you can end up doing the same thing every day.”