Chefs go public with their dreams
Two young Ottawa chefs hope that crowdfunding campaigns will help them take their modest restaurant ambitions to the next level.
One is Tarek Hassan, who began selling Asian buns from his Gongfu Bao food cart beside Confederation Park in 2013. He’s preparing to open a restaurant in early 2018 at 365 Bank St. in Centretown, and through his Indiegogo page aims to raise a little more than $20,000. Hassan has raised a bit more than $12,500 by offering supporters advance orders of food, shirts, bandanas, hats, cooking lessons and more.
Hassan, says the flexible crowdfunding campaign, which has about two weeks left to go, “is really about getting community support to bring things up a notch, by boosting our budget for furnishings, finishes, equipment.”
While he has a loan and investment sunk into building his restaurant, Hassan says that with the crowdfunding component, “the more we raise, the more awesome this restaurant will be.
“Everyone excited about Gongfu gets to be a part of this journey with us, and earn the swag to prove it,” says Hassan, who was a fixture at the Byron Park Ottawa Farmers Market in recent years and who this year staged several pop-up restaurant takeovers.
Before Hassan struck out on his own, he worked at the Manx Pub, Savana Café, Sidedoor and Fraser Café.
In Old Ottawa South, 20-something chef Anh Nguyen is supported by a crowdfunding campaign to help him upgrade the ventilation system at Chez Anh, which he opened last spring on Sunnyside Avenue.
The 20-seat eatery serves the food of northern Vietnam, including pho soups, banh mi sandwiches and more. However, a City of Ottawa fire inspector told him that his ventilation system was insufficient for his needs. Nguyen says it was the first inspection in three years at his location, which means that the previous restaurant and its ventilation system was never inspected.
Nguyen has had to cut staff and scale back his operations, altering his menu and serving pho made with store-bought ingredients rather than long-simmered bone broth.
A neighbour has launched a GoFundMe page in support of Chez Anh. Its campaign, which has no end date, has raised about $1,200 of its $5,000 goal.
Chef Tarek Hassan, known for the Gongfu Bao food cart, hopes to raise over $20,000 so he can open a restaurant early next year.