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Food & Drink

Holiday Gifting and Celebrating During a Pandemic

A chat with Toronto Life’s exclusive caterer, Lauren Mozer of elle cuisine.

Holiday Gifting and Celebrating During a Pandemic

When passion fuels creativity great things follow, and chef Lauren Mozer of elle cuisine is living proof. Chef Lauren, who started as a private chef, built one of the best event and catering companies in the city, raising the bar for luxury dining in Toronto. With the holiday season upon us, elle cuisine is all set to make your holiday experiences special. We chatted with Lauren about some awesome holiday recommendations and gifting ideas to make the best of this year’s season.

Are you excited about the holiday season?

The holidays are bittersweet this year. First, stress levels are quite high given the impact of the second lockdown on my beloved hospitality industry (and my company and its people). Second, it’s tough to think about celebrating without the company of family and friends.

All that said, the holiday season is one of the most memorable times of the year—that time when we all let loose and indulge in a little too much food and booze and merriment! After the year I’ve had, I cannot wait to have a moment to breathe and focus on my home life with my fiancé.

What are your top recommendations for holiday celebrations this year?

On December 1, we launch our 2020 Holiday Package. We have dinner and brunch packages with highlights like beef wellington, whole lobster with drawn butter, sticky toffee pudding, apple cranberry crumble pie, and holiday cocktails like an apple cider bourbon sour or a sparkling cranberry vanilla bean “tini.”

For brunch, we’re doing a braised beef hash with poached eggs and béarnaise, avocado toast kits, fresh baked goods from our pastry team and mimosas for all!

For Hanukkah, which starts on December 10, we’ve curated a menu for those celebrating at home.

Tell us about the add-on packages.

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These luxe add-ons are my favourite part of our holiday menu. We’ve designed canapé kits that come with all the ingredients needed to recreate some of our most popular holiday hors d’oeuvres from years past: mini Yorkshire puddings, bite-sized latkes, shrimp cocktail, mini tourtières and our shaved turkey slider on homemade brioche buns. We also have raw bar and seafood tower options for those looking to indulge in oysters, king crab, jumbo prawns and ahi tuna.

If you want an activity to entertain your kids or family with a super unique, iconic foodie experience, check out our Gingerbread House Kits. I’m especially stoked about our Toronto Skyline Gingerbread Decorating Kit. It’s super custom—you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the city. How can I be sure? I had the custom cookie cutters and stencils designed and printed!

Another goodie is the Yule Log Decorating Kit. Interactive and so festive!

What about holiday gifting options from elle cuisine?

We’re selling gift certificates to our elle cuisine market concept. We’ve also curated a Home for the Holidays Package/Gift Basket. We put together a selection of prepared foods to get you and your household through the holidays well fed, with ease. Our Fresh Box offers a variety of fresh proteins, salads and snacks perfect for lunch or a light dinner.

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Our Frozen Box options offer a selection of one-pan meal options that you can bake from frozen, filling your kitchen with the scent of a home-cooked meal.

Any recommendations on how to connect with family and friends outside of your household?

At elle cuisine, virtual experiences have been so hot this season. For our wine and cheese tastings hosted by our sommelier Leora Winkler, boxes are dropped off day of or the day before, and a Zoom link is sent to all the participants. Or hire us for a virtual cooking class! Tacos, risotto, gnocchi and beef wellington are some of the most popular classes we’ve booked this December.

You can also order boxed food experiences to accompany a virtual activity, like virtual escape room, movie night on Netflix, or a live virtual comedy show or theatre performance.

How do you ensure safety in the workplace? Has the pandemic caused any operational changes?

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Back in March, we had to buckle down and make a lot of changes to adjust to the new normal. We follow strict safety protocols at our workplace and we keep our bubble as small as possible. To start with, no one outside our bubble is allowed into our space—our employees are like family. All vendors drop deliveries outside and we sanitize the boxes thoroughly before bringing them into the building. We also do temperature checks twice a day. Everyone inside the office wears masks and gloves when required.

How are you adjusting to the new normal?

I’m not sure I like the term “new normal.” What’s normal? Was there ever a normal?

It’s an incredibly challenging time for small business. And it’s a hard time for everyone, in different ways. We will all get through this, and this will be a defining time in history that will lead us to a new reality of how we do business and how we treat one another as humans. I’m looking forward to being an active part of positive change for hospitality and beyond.

For now, though, my focus is on staying healthy and sane while working my damned hardest to navigate my business through the most challenging times we’ve faced yet. My armour is getting tougher each day.

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