A Q&A with Lauren Mozer, Elle Cuisine owner and TL Insider’s exclusive caterer, on her new virtual cooking classes
Lauren Mozer is the founder of upscale catering outfit Elle Cuisine, which caters weddings, swanky Bridle Path parties and corporate shindigs. It’s also the exclusive caterer for TL Insider. We chatted with chef Mozer about how the pandemic all but shuttered her company, and how she was forced to reinvent her business over the course of a two-week self-isolation. Now, Mozer is back in business and working towards rehiring her staff, all while hosting virtual cooking classes for TL Insider.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Horribly—we lost $1 million of sales in just 72 hours. By March 16, I was forced to lay off most of my team. Since launching Elle Cuisine Market, I was able to bring back two people, and, hopefully, I’ll be able to afford to re-hire one more by next week.
How did the pandemic force Elle Cuisine to pivot?
My remaining staff and I all went into isolation—separately, of course—for 14 days, and I spent that time brainstorming. I thought about myself, and what someone like me—someone who’s busy, stressed, but also enjoying a bit more time at home—would want right now. I decided on a one-stop shopping service where my clients could order pre-made dinners, but also get grocery items and alcohol. We’re also doing a multi-course prix-fixe menu—it’s a bit fancier, but people are liking it as a date-night option.
According to their orders, what are your customers craving these days?
Our barbecue-ready marinated meats and the savoury pies! We’re selling a ton of our braised beef galettes and our chicken pot pies. The biggest surprise has been that hardly anyone is ordering sweets, but I think that’s partly because people are baking a lot right now.
How are you making sure your customers feel secure about the safety of their food?
We have a 7,000-square-foot kitchen, and we’re keeping a two-meter distance between everyone at all times—even during meetings. Our suppliers are also delivering everything curb-side, so it’s contact-free. After they drop off, someone from the Elle Cuisine team goes out wearing a mask and gloves and disinfects everything before bringing it in. Once it’s inside, we wash everything thoroughly. On top of that, we’re checking everyone’s temperatures twice a day, and we practice excellent hygiene—all surfaces are sanitized regularly, and everyone washes their hands frequently and thoroughly.
How did you end up becoming TL Insider’s exclusive caterer?
We had collaborated on a few events with Toronto Life, including catering the fireside chats. People loved our food so much that we were asked to become the exclusive TL Insider caterer.
Starting next week, you’re going to run virtual cooking classes for Insiders. Can you tell us a bit about what you have planned?
Insiders who have signed up will get a box of prepped ingredients, which they’ll use to cook an Elle Cuisine signature dish. The class will take place over Google Hangouts, so I’ll be there going through the recipes step-by-step, and if anyone has difficulties I’ll be able to help them out in real time.
What are some of the dishes people will be learning to make?
Next week, we’ll be making beef wellington. Then, we’re making doing gnocchi, and we’re doing sticky toffee pudding after that.
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