A Nashville hot chicken night? Homemade pickles? Sign me up.
I was first introduced to Chez Dine when I came on board to work with the team at the beginning of November. One of the first events that caught my eye was Chef Mitch Ferron’s pop-up dining event at Grain & Grit, a local craft brewery in Hamilton. The experience promised to deliver a Nashville hot chicken inspired menu: featuring a fried chicken sandwich with homemade pickles, mac and cheese and jalapeño cornbread.
On the day of the event I asked myself, “how can I really know what Chez Dine is all about until I experience a dining event firsthand?” Although it didn’t take much convincing, I purchased my ticket and made my way to Grain & Grit.
Unsure of what to expect, I walked in and ordered one of Grain & Grit’s delicious sour brews. The venue was packed with people sitting at tables, laughing amid conversation, some were already digging into their meal. As there were no empty tables, I mustered up the courage to ask a young couple if I could join them at their table. They invited me into their conversation and told me how they were friends of Chef Mitch and came from Toronto to support his first Chez Dine event. “He’s always whipping up amazing creations in the kitchen, every time we have an event together he brings the best dishes,” they told me.
They weren’t kidding. As soon as my food came I couldn’t resist sampling a bite of everything; it all looked so good. There was a uniqueness about the quality of the food. You could tell it was prepared fresh from a dedicated chef who put a lot of care into his work. It was very different from a typical restaurant experience, the flavours worked so well together. It was almost as if I was tasting someone’s work of art.
As I was finishing my meal the couple I was sitting with left the table to chat with the chef and congratulate him on the success of his first pop-up event. I was getting ready to leave when another couple came in and sat at my table.
The man was from England, and his wife grew up in Canada but has lived all over the world. They were meeting up with a friend that they had met only a month prior at Grain & Grit for a different event. They started telling me about how they love chatting with anyone who will listen, and how they tend to make new friends over food and a few drinks. The two of them were so interesting to listen to, sharing stories with me of when they first met over twenty years ago, and how they don’t understand why the younger generation chooses to communicate more through their phones than face-to-face. The conversation continued for hours into the evening, and I recall not glancing down at my phone once.
Once their friend came, the group of us began telling more stories about our personal lives, where we grew up and the places on our travel bucket list. Never before had I connected with complete strangers so fast. By the end of the night we were sharing drinks with one another, making jokes as if we’d known each other for years.
Perhaps I had forgotten about the power that food has to connect us with other people, and our ability to be in the moment when we are dining with great company. My experience at my first Chez Dine event really spoke to the reason why it exists; to connect people over good food while creating lasting memories. Chez Dine promised me a unique dining experience, and it not only delivered, but far surpassed my expectations.