When was the last time you gave lunch a second thought? Seriously, the midday meal most of us take for granted, hastily packing whatever isn’t nailed down in the fridge or scrounging up a couple bills and change to spend at the office cafeteria.
No, Saturday or Sunday brunch with three egg omelets, bacon, sausage, and biscuits doesn’t count. But, our reverence for weekend brunch underscores how much we neglect weekday lunch.
Usually, navigating the guidelines issued by schools about what not to pack in the kids’ lunch boxes is the upper limit of our consideration.
Lunch, for many of us, is just sustenance to get through the work day.
Thankfully, Tim Van Dyke serves something thoughtful at LUNCH, socially conscious meals that are healthy and delicious, competitively priced (under $10 for sandwich and soup or salad combos), and “prêt à manger.”
Van Dyke’s unassuming three “brick and mortar” locations and one “soon-to-be-released” food truck operation serves an amazing 1000 people a day. That works out to between 250 and 400 cubicle dwellers, dropping into each location during their lunch breaks. And, LUNCH is expanding into Gatineau in July, opening a location next to Tim Hortons in the causeway connecting the office towers that make up Place du Portage Phase III.
[The giant government office complex that is Place du Portage has an extremely high density of office workers, second only to The Pentagon in the United States.]We sat down with Ottawa-born Van Dyke to discuss all things LUNCH and his participating in the 17th Annual Bon Appetit Ottawa event on May 7th.
“I take a lot of pride in feeding people,” explained Van Dyke.
LUNCH, having celebrated its 5th anniversary on April 16th, originally opened on Bank Street (121), between Slater and Albert. In fact, what is now Van Dyke’s flagship retail outlet once produced all of the food served at his satellite locations. It is the only one equipped with a kitchen. Like Chef Marc Lepine’s Atelier Restaurant (540 Rochester Street), there is no gas line. Van Dyke and his former chef Alex Majpaniw worked with electric hot plates and portable induction burners. Today, all the sandwiches, soups, and salads served at 121 Bank, 99 Metcalfe, and 240 Sparks are assembled at the “commissary,” a central professionally-equipped kitchen in Chinatown (60-A Lebreton).
The characteristic oversized chalk board at every LUNCH location reads like a directory of local producers: The Whalesbone (for sustainable fin- and shellfish), Ferme des Voltigeurs (for chicken), and The Bootleg Porchetta Company (self explanatory), and Ottawa Bagel Shop (also self explanatory). All of the sliced bread served is baked daily from “ever reliable” Le Moulin de Provence (55 ByWard Market Square) in the ByWard Market.
“Our goal is for people [we serve] to be eating a good, honest, and fresh product.”
When we pressed him for his top-selling sandwich, Van Dyke replied, “The chicken tarragon salad sandwich. It’s a classic chicken salad.”
With the option of white or whole grain bread, who can resist a sandwich filling made with halved red grapes, roast chicken (thigh meat), walnuts, dried cranberries, light tarragon mayo, and lettuce?
[Incidentally, the porchetta sandwich is a take on “The Porchetta” served at Il Negozio Nicastro (1355 Wellington Street W.), where Mike Nicastro crafts the porchetta he sells under The Bootleg Porchetta brand. LUNCH’s take is made with roasted garlic aioli, herbal gremolata, and peppery arugula.]
What most people likely don’t know is LUNCH has a catering arm. Van Dyke has 8 catering clients he has been delivering to on a daily basis for 4 1/2 years.
For his food truck, Van Dyke is retrofitting a 1995 Chevrolet P30, which he has every intention of unveiling at Bon Appetit. It will be a mobile retail location, serving the same menu as any other LUNCH outlet. When parked, a diesel generator will power the refrigeration he needs.
“I try to keep everything consistent,” explained Van Dyke.
[Left: Charcuterie LUNCH Box with Cranberry and Hazelnut Raincoast Crisps, Fig Jam, Seed to Sausage Sopresatta, salami, and ham; Right: Curried Chicken Wrap with roasted chicken breast, roasted red onion, roasted red pepper, chick peas and sweet mustard mayo]
[Asian Noodle Salad with rice noodles, snow peas, carrots, red peppers, spring onions, toasted sesame seeds and rice wine vinaigrette.]
The truck itself has been entrusted to local “metal artist” Alan Gustafson. Brandishing a shiny new Blackberry Z10, Van Dyke proudly showed off the logo design graffiti artist Luke Norrad will hand paint onto the truck, sort of a typographic mural. The service window will measure 4′ x 11′, the average dimensions of LUNCH’s chalk boards.
Unlike many food trucks, patrons will also have the option to pay by cash, debit, or credit card.
When his truck is finished, Van Dyke hopes to take his sandwiches in recyclable cardboard “wedges” and sides in compost-able containers to events like the Dragon Boat Festival.
Why sandwich boxes? LUNCH’s branded boxes are imported from the UK, which originated the wildly successful “Pret A Manger” sandwich chain. Modeled after Pret’s, LUNCH’s sandwich boxes are meant to showcase a premium but affordable product that office workers can “grab and go.” Van Dyke claims he was the first to use them in Canada. Tracey Clark of local Bridgehead Coffee chain followed suit, phasing out cellophane sandwich wrappers.
“Heat sealed plastic is synonymous with gas station sandwiches.”
When asked about LUNCH’s growth, Van Dyke explained he is trying to build the critical mass to partner with charitable causes and give something back to the community. Participating in Bon Appetit is a first step. Dubbed Ottawa’s largest cocktail party, Bon Appetit benefits no less than 24 local charities. LUNCH is one of over 70 food and beverage partners that will be on hand at the Ernst & Young Centre (4899 Uplands Drive) on May 7th.
In the same vein, Van Dyke introduced a Live Below the Line sandwich special last Wednesday. Approached by organizers of the poverty awareness organization that originated in Australia, he declined the challenge to live on $1.75/day. Instead, he and his new chef Martin Prudhomme (former Sous of the Mill Street Brew Pub) are putting together a Live Below the Line event at The Hub Ottawa that will serve a sample full-day menu. Moreover 50 cents from the sale of every sandwich special will go to Canadian branch of Live Below the Line.
This said, organizers at Bon Appetit have generously issued us a pair of tickets to giveaway.
Here’s the deal:
For one (1) entry, visit the Bon Appetit food and beverage page, choose a familiar food partner, and leave a comment at the end of this post describing something you’ve enjoyed from them: a dish, a glass of wine, anything.
If you choose LUNCH and leave a comment about a sandwich and soup or salad combo, you get two (2) entries (i.e. you will be entered twice).
Supply us a viable e-mail address (it won’t be shared), so we can contact you.
One comment per person, please!
At noon (EST), Monday, May 6th, 2013, we will use Random.org to choose a commenter to receive two tickets to Bon Appetit. We will contact the winner by e-mail and connect he or she with event organizers. Tickets will be couriered to him or her thereafter.
We should likely point out tickets to Bon Appetit sell out EVERY year. You may not want to gamble with not being able to attend…
Update: This contest is now closed!
We received 23 comments for a final total of 37 entries. They follow:
- Shawn McCormick
- Melanie Allen
- Melanie Allen
- Lisa Griffin
- Lisa Griffin
- pej daddy
- Scott Oakley
- Tamara Marshall
- Craik Pyke
- Jodi Turner
Congratulations Kasey, an e-mail will be dispatched to you shortly!
Tags: Bon Appetit, featured, food truck, giveaway, LUNCH