Chefs go pub­lic with their dreams

Ottawa Citizen - - YOU - PETER HUM

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.

DAR­REN BROWN

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.

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