A local entrepreneur, innovator and culinary star, Stephen Beckta spent four years in New York City before returning to Ottawa to open Beckta restaurant in 2003. He draws on this experience in one of the world’s leading culinary centres, plus three-day return visits to NYC to “eat and drink for a few days to stimulate new ideas” to fuel inspiration for new restaurants.
Although that might not sound like the toughest job in the world, Beckta has been repeatedly successful in a notoriously difficult industry. An increasing number of entrepreneurs are launching their own restaurants in Ottawa, which Beckta says brings more competition and innovation that benefits the city’s broader culinary scene.
“What (more choice) does is it challenges the status quo. Everyone is forced to push the boundaries – to be more caring, to be more innovative, to be more exciting!”
With the celebrations surrounding Canada’s 150th anniversary making Ottawa “the place to visit in the world this year,” according to Beckta, now is the time to do something that pushes boundaries and gets people excited about the local food scene. Beckta’s recently announced “Canada’s Table” event is doing just that, bringing 1,000 dinner guests to a single long table overlooking Parliament Hill this August – an event that sold out in under one second.
Canada’s Table is a partnership between Beckta and Sheila Whyte of Thyme & Again. They aim to create a huge dinner party to celebrate the nation, bringing 20 chefs from across the country to showcase Canada’s culinary culture.
In case you missed out on tickets to the main event, there will be other opportunities to experience some of the action. Several visiting chefs will be cooking meals at local host restaurants, as well as supporting various food insecurity causes including the Ottawa Food Bank and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa to teach people with limited means how to prepare healthy and delicious foods from local products.
Beckta attributes the successes of his three Ottawa-based restaurants, Beckta, Play and Gezellig, to promoting a culture of caring. This extends all the way through from the kitchen, to the customer experience and into the community through mindful relationships with suppliers and stakeholders. This commitment to caring extends into the larger community where Beckta was recently named as incoming chair to the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.
Beckta: The first and now flagship restaurant moved just under three years from Nepean Street to its landmark location on Elgin Street
Play: Opened in 2009, a small plates restaurant located on corner of York Street and Sussex Drive
Gezellig: Slightly more than four years old, this restaurant is located in Westboro at the corner of Churchill Avenue and Richmond Road.