The Eat­ing Place

Meet Lunch­room, a tal­ented group of cre­atives that mixes co-work­ing with meal­time

Designlines - - Food Dept. - By Bert Archer

On the fourth floor of one of Uno Prii’s An­nex tow­ers – un­be­knownst to most, and as of­ten as four af­ter­noons a week – some of the city’s most tal­ented 35-and-un­ders gather to work, vet each other’s pitches, mend each other’s of­ten-frayed free­lance egos, and eat.

Both the space and the food come cour­tesy of Gabriel Li, a pho­tog­ra­pher, de­signer, grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Water­loo’s ar­chi­tec­ture school and mother-hen to this re­volv­ing group of about 30 cre­atives. Reg­u­lars in­clude il­lus­tra­tor Zachary Mon­teiro, pho­tog­ra­pher Pam Lau and mul­ti­me­dia de­signer Kather­ine Diemert.

“It just hap­pened nat­u­rally,” says Li of his un­usual so­cial net­work, seated at the large wooden ta­ble that dom­i­nates the two-bed­room apart­ment, which he shares with a cat. “I can’t work in li­braries and cof­fee shops,” he says, “so I started brib­ing peo­ple to come work at home with me. Now I’m cook­ing like I would if I had a fam­ily, the way my mom cooked for us ev­ery day.”

The book­shelf on the north­ern wall is filled with vol­umes on var­i­ous as­pects of food, by Toronto’s Coach House Books and oth­ers, though they’re more likely to be about food se­cu­rity, sus­tain­abil­ity and ur­ban gar­den­ing than the lat­est Nigella Law­son. The room is heavy with plants, fed via the east-fac­ing win­dow that looks out over the roofs of the An­nex.

Li cooks all the meals, which have evolved to be veg­e­tar­ian and largely gluten-free. It’s clear from Lunch­room’s In­sta­gram feed that every­one en­joys his roasted Brus­sels sprouts with a quick pickle wa­ter­melon radish served with a fried egg. Same with the fresh lo­cal veg­eta­bles (in­clud­ing toma­toes grown on his bal­cony) with herbed falafel in­spired by Geary Av­enue hot spot Par­al­lel. He as­signs avail­able $5 slots to in­ter­ested group mem­bers through weekly Face­book polls. But Li says that Lunch­room is not re­ally about the food. “It’s a rea­son to gather,” he says, point­ing to the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity for peo­ple who of­ten live satel­lite lives. LUNCH­ROOM.CO

Wa­ter­colour sketches in progress by il­lus­tra­tor Jus­tine Wong.

De­signer Kather­ine Diemert ini­ti­ates a col­lage of dig­i­tally ma­nip­u­lated im­ages.

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