Table for two!
Chelsea is quickly becoming the food capital of the Gatineau Hills.
With over 20 restaurants serving fare from all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before we see the likes of celebrity food gurus Guy Fieri or Bobby Flay bring their taste buds to the Hills.
All kidding aside, the cuisine in Chelsea needs to be celebrated and embraced by locals.
Chelsea has always been known for good food, with high-end staple restaurants Les Fougères and L'Orée Dubois putting the little Quebec town on the culinary map years ago. But what has shown up since has only added to the area’s rich menu — complimentary restaurants that could make Chelsea the go-to spot for gastronomes throughout the National Capital Region.
But are people eating out? Apparently, not so much.
A Statistics Canada report in 2020 reveals that 51 per cent of Canadians plan to spend less on restaurants during the COVID-19 recovery period. That stat is believable when you drive to Chelsea on a Thursday night to see empty patios and lonely dining rooms.
It’s a stark contrast to the 54 per cent of Canadians who ate out at a restaurant at least once a week in 2019 — a signal that times are set to get even more challenging for our local restaurant owners.
That’s where hungry food lovers of the Hills come in. This is your call to action, your culinary challenge for the rest of the summer: eat local. Have you tried the spicy lamb curry or butter chicken at Cuisine Indian Express? How about the pistachio-pine nut pizza from Romana Pizza? Have you tasted the garlic sauce at the new Le Shawarma Chef in Farm Point? Everybody knows what a McDonald’s hamburger tastes like, so you can skip Le Grand Big Mac.
Local restaurants do need local buy-in from residents. According to a study by Canadian restaurant platform Toast, 78 per cent of diners said they're likely to base their choice on a friend’s recommendation or word-of-mouth review. Residents need to try their local cuisine and tell others about it.
But local buy-in does more than that. When a restaurant has loyal, local customers, it creates a vibe and a sense of community and security for diners and restaurateurs. Just ask Paco Gomez what it’s like to know your customers personally. One of his croissant regulars asked him to make a pizza one day, and now Gomez has his own pizza/croissant shop. These local connections give business owners the confidence to take risks and try new things.
If we want Chelsea to stay on the culinary map, then restaurants need local help. Restaurants and bars across the country saw a 40 per cent drop in sales in 2020 compared to 2019, and over three-quarters were approved for or received some form of funding due to the pandemic. It's clear they still need our help.
Table for two, please.