The Eating Place
Meet Lunchroom, a talented group of creatives that mixes co-working with mealtime
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
Designer Katherine Diemert initiates a collage of digitally manipulated images.