FoodLab recently celebrated its first anniversary with a bang. There was a special festive menu, family, fans and colleagues, pretty lights, a ping-pong table and birthday cake…
FoodLab has been serving outstanding food in a very casual, trendy atmosphere for the past year. The menu changes every 2 to 3 weeks and is always centered around a specific theme: French Holidays, Japanese izakaya, etc. I sat down with Michelle Marek and Seth Gabrielse, the two talented chefs at the helm of FoodLab, for a Q&A session right before the big birthday event.
What was it like at the beginning?
Michelle Marek: We took a tour of the kitchen space a month and a half before it opened, it was in construction and we were planning it all out. But really, what we got was what we saw. The same empty, completely empty, space.
So when you started out, you didn’t even have the home ovens?
Seth Gabrielse: Nothing, no tables, nothing. We had a piece of the stage from downstairs.
MM: We covered it with a tablecloth just so it didn’t look so trashy.
How did you cook with no water?
SG: We cooked at my place and Michelle and I biked everything in.
And how long did it take before you had water and ovens?
SG: When we opened officially – because we did several events before FoodLab was launched – but when we opened officially, at that point, there was water at the bar area (several feet away) and we could use one third of the bar fridge.
Was there one single moment when everything came together for you?
MM: It’s a series of moments. We had a lot of nice experiences. We’ve been building something and we keep getting proof that, yes, this is still interesting and there’s still a lot that we can do. Despite our limitations, we’ve never let that stop us.
SG: There were moments at the beginning when we looked at our kitchen and realized that it would’ve taken 3 or 4 of the tech guys who work here about half an hour to dismantle it all as if it never existed.
MM: That’s a weird feeling.
SG: Now it’s fun because we see it becoming more permanent. And for me too, it was a series of events but one of the solidifying things was when we decided to start doing the themed-menus and we had a very positive response to them.
Can we expect the same kind of theme format for year 2?
SG: I think so.
MM: What freaked us out at first was not having some sort of direction. It’s literally impossible to work like that. There was no direction so we imposed this direction so at least there was a structure within the menus, because otherwise, it’s all over the place. We’re also looking forward to more collaborations next year, more festivals and more longer-running events.
In your wildest dreams, if there was no budget limit, what would you want? Who would you want cooking in your kitchen?
SG: This is not so wild and crazy but we would love to do an event with some of the old-timers of Montreal, some of the guys who pioneered this business. You know, James MacGuire, Joël Chapoulie, etc. It would be a lot of fun to bring some these guys together and do a meal with them.
MM: We’ve always wanted to do a big dance in the dome, open it up and have a dinner and dance event, but not techno dancing, more like ballroom. We’ve always wanted an educational element to what we do here so it would be cool to explore more workshops, more cooking classes or host these micro workshops here. The demand is there and it’s a neutral space in the city. We’re only open four nights a week so we are flexible and space is not an issue.
Until November 28, Foodlab will feature a Kamouraska menu inspired by a trip Michelle took to that region earlier this summer and then again a couple of weeks ago to collect ingredients which will be part of the menu. From November 29 to December 2 there will be a Quebec Christmas menu (Pea soup, tourtière, cretons, and a lot of traditional dishes will be on the menu at FoodLab while SOUK@SAT is taking place) and in December there will family-style set menus throughout the month for all your holiday parties. These will change on a weekly basis.
FoodLab, Society for Arts and Technology, 1201 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, 3rd floor
Tuesday to Friday starting at 5pm