The Depanneur | BlogTO

The Depanneur

Liora Ipsum | September 09, 2011 |

The Depanneur is easily one of Toronto’s most intriguing eateries. It’s not so much a restaurant but a blank canvas owned by Len Senater and programmed much like a nightclub with an ever changing cast of cooks coming through.

It’s got a kitchen party kind of vibe thanks to its single room stature where the kitchen and dining area all inhabit one space. When it gets busy, the windows fog up and the room can get quite loud but it all just adds to the excitement.

Some events, like workshops and supper clubs (multi-course menus presented by guest chefs) are ticketed while other offerings like weekday dinners and table talks are drop-in only and generally feature just a single dish. It’s not licensed but BYOB (no corkage fee) is sometimes encouraged.

Brunch on weekends is the only thing offered with any real regularity and the cash-only affair is helmed by Brad Kurtenbach who has dubbed the current menu as Thick Cut Brunch. It’s named in tribute to some of the fattest slabs of bacon I’ve ever been so fortunate to encounter.


ReDefiningTO: The Depanneur | Toronto Guardian

The Depanneur model focuses on how to provide quality food at a reasonable price, all while working to engage the local community in a variety of ways.

ReDefiningTO: The Depanneur

by Shauna Trainor | May 9, 2013 | Toronto Guardian (formerly Toronto Is Awesome)

I believe all of us have seen the power of food in bringing people together – creating conversation and fostering community – whether family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, or strangers. The Depanneur is working to implement a potentially disruptive business model to leverage the power of food in bringing together and strengthening the community.

RedefiningTO highlights the people, projects, programs and places making a difference in Toronto and beyond. We hope that sharing these stories will inspire you to join the ranks in redefining Toronto for the better.

At a recent Pecha Kucha, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet one of the brave presenters, Len Senater, who shared the story of his unique west side restaurant The Depanneur, located at 1033 College St. The Depanneur’s mission is to showcase and inspire culinary talent, to promote innovation in the food sector, and to collaborate with food entrepreneurs as well as existing social enterprises all in an effort “to expand the horizons for food in Toronto.”

The Depanneur (Quebecois for convenience store) was named not only in reference to the fact that the space used to be home to a convenience store, but also because Len believed it was fitting given his view of the food industry in Toronto as “en panne”, or rather, broken.

“There is a real formulaic approach to ‘fine’ dining in Toronto – trendy, flashy, hip, pricy, loud, meat-heavy etc… It’s conspicuous, status-forward, and for and by people with money in a way that doesn’t really interest me. There are lots of reasons for this, including high rents and bureaucratic barriers that raise the stakes so high no one wants to take any real risks. You end up with a lot of derivative, trendy, status-quo stuff, rather than more innovative and creative stuff,” he says.


A Tale of Two Corner Stores | Alimentary Initiatives

A Tale of Two Corner Stores

by Aruna Antonella Handa | February 20, 2013 | Alimentary Initiatives

I absolutely love the Depanneur. I think Len Senater is a local food hero. He has truly revolutionized the notion of a corner store by returning the concept to what it once was.

When Len and I lived in Montreal (we didn’t know one another well, but our circles happily overlapped), the “depanneur” or the “dep” was the corner store where you went to get locally bottled cheap imported wine, cigarettes, a  box of (usually) stale crackers and not much else. When Len took over the lease at his joint on Havelock and College, the place was a veritable dump. I could not believe it. But Len’s face was all shiny and new and full of optimism. I, on the other hand, could barely breathe in there. Len and his pal renovated the place physically, but while he was chipping away at the paint on the walls, Len was also chipping away at the traditional notions of a corner store. Instead of poisons like industrial candy and tobacco, Len was going to sell sour dough breads and organic vegetables. Instead of trashy magazines and porn, Len was offering serious food journals. And instead of a sorry patty reheated to within an inch of its life, Len served frittatas and wicked grilled cheese. In short he renovated the corner store, in form and in content. The Dep also features cookery classes and makes for an amazing venue for a private party.

Len is currently looking for someone to manage the corner store part of his operation as he has his hands full with running the Dep’s two kitchens, his remarkably successful and rather uniquely public supper club, the Rusholme Park, as well as his runaway success Drop-in Dinners. So, when Len asks for help? We all chip in. Alimentary’s Toronto Office Markets wouldn’t have been half as successful were it not for the brilliant support Len has quietly offered food start-ups with his kitchens by renting them commercial kitchen space. I call this small businesses weaving into one another to build resilience, to make it harder for strong winds to blow us away…


Spicy New Venture Award | FoodForward

Spicy New Venture Award: Len Senater and The Depanneur

by Darcy Higgins | 08/15/2012 |

For a food-related business or entrepreneur whose recent work has led to the development of a delicious venture contributing significantly to increase good food, food justice, and/or good food job expansion in one or more of Toronto neighbourhoods.

Len remains the ultimate collaborator and is committed to fostering a strong, local food community. On Friday nights, Len opens his kitchen to Toronto cooks who serve their own delectable creations to an excited and dedicated Depanneur clientele of all ages.

Len Senater followed his heart and translated his passion for food into the recent establishment of The Depanneur, a self-described place “where interesting food things happen.”

Located between Dovercourt and Dufferin on College Street, Len and his restaurant have played host to an endless variety of community food events such as the Rusholme Park Supper Club and casual, drop-in Tuesday dinners where you get whatever Len decides to cook.


FOOD: Recipes for community hubs | Spacing

FOOD: Recipes for community hubs pt. 1


“This is intended to be a much more participatory environment. By coming here you are more actively engaged in what’s going on with food than to go to a restaurant with a kitchen in the back and with people you never see and food that comes from somewhere that nobody ever knows about,”

The Depanneur was started by Len Senater, a former design firm partner who had never worked in the restaurant business before. Initially put off by the resto business model, Senater created The Dep and it’s sister company, The Rusholme Park Supper Club to reflect what he loved most about the communion of food. The Supper Club is a truly unique experience, wherein anyone (professional chef or otherwise) can take over The Dep’s kitchen and host a dinner party.

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An open mic for culinary performers & a gastronomic journey for diners | Yonge Street


An open mic for culinary performers & a gastronomic journey for diners


The model positions local chefs in the middle of an open-source social enterprise that balances for-profit activities with a mission to support good-food movement-minded entrepreneurs.

If you’re just looking at its former hole-in-the-wall bones, then yes, The Depanneur seems like any other cosy corner café of reclaimed architectural pedigree. Exposed brick, vintage hardware, antique windows and menu chalkboards are indeed the norm décor accents for now-fashionable Brockton Village storefronts. The painted cue card signage for homemade jams, organic local produce in wooden crates and ideal coffee grinds is Honest Ed’s-esque, while the tables that line its sunny windows are clearly repurposed chewing gum display racks. It’s all very much in keeping with the café’s franglais Québécois homage to Montreal’s ubiquitous convenience stores, and the building’s previous various retail iterations.
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How Pop-Up Chefs Became the New Indie Rockers | Broken Pencil

Food Not Bands

by Ryan Bigge | October 3rd, 2012 |

“Indie food can be expensive and exclusionary. And it often lacks the community infrastructure that is so crucial to subcultures. Senater is working hard to change that. The Depanneur is unafraid to be ridiculous and ambitious and affordable and accessible. Past food events include Porknography (a nine-course meal, with each recipe featuring pig), a drop-in Ital dinner (Rastafarian-informed vegan cuisine that avoids the use of salt), and a black and white meal with a black and white dress code. For Senater, the goal is to enable creativity, spontaneity and originality while removing any element of elitism or luxury or decadence. (As he jokes, “This may be detrimental to our long- term success. Sometimes I get the feeling that if I charged three times as much I’d be way busier.”) Seating about 20 people, Senater wants to foster the atmosphere of an intimate social supper club, rather than a restaurant.”
Ryan Bigge


The Depanneur | The VONG choice!

The Depanneur

By Jacqueline Vong | 6.09.2012 |

At this point of the evening, I felt like we were all old friends at our end of the table, laughing and showing off pictures of our lives, from concerts we’ve enjoyed to our pet rats/ cats and dogs… the experience itself was truly special as it was a really great evening of food, new friends and a cozy new place.

The Depanneur, a very fitting name for a former convenience store come communal dining spot which by day serves as a little coffee and sandwich place and by evening, a casual and unique supper club. Having lived in la belle province (Montreal), I loved my local Dep around the corner and so I was very intrigued about trying this new dig.

My new friends at the Dep
The opportunity came up when my friend Heidi invited me to the Dep which serves as host to the Rusholme Park Supper club events. Her friend Natalie Ryan was the chef du jour and was going to prepare a Mediterranean style dinner for us. I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Dep.
I walked in slightly tardy and was greeted by a long table for about 20 people. Everybody was mingling and I chose to sit with a few people towards an end of the table. I made fast friends as I brought out 2 bottles of wine, as this event, and all dinners are BYOB. I wanted to make sure I was well stocked up and was more than happy to share the wealth!

Natalie, our host chef, vision was to transform 14 years of her travels in more than 22 countries into a culinary tour of the southern Mediterranean. Let the feast begin!


Terra Madre Dinner

Go to Terra Madre Dinner

Here are some pics from the Terra Madre Day dinner. It was a really great night from beginning to end. Thank you to everyone who came and celebrated with us and to our fellow suppliers Sunrise Orga…

Drop-In Vegan Dinner at the Depanneur – Okara “Crab” Cake Po’ Boys

Drop-In Vegan Dinner at the Depanneur - Okara “Crab” Cake Po’

I’m continuing my love of The Depanneur (1033A College St.) Corner store by day, dinner establishment by (some evenings), brunch spot, commercial kitchen space, and all around nice stop in Dufferin Grove. We’ve gone several times in the…