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The Depanneur | BlogTO

The Depanneur

Liora Ipsum | September 09, 2011 | blogto.com

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.


FOOD: Recipes for community hubs | Spacing

FOOD: Recipes for community hubs pt. 1

NOVEMBER 30, 2011 | BY ALLIE HUNWICKS  |  spacingtoronto.ca

“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

REA MCNAMARA | WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2012 | yongestreetmedia.ca

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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Breakfast & Lunch Cafe By Day, Supper Club By Night | Ate by Ate

Breakfast & Lunch Cafe By Day, Supper Club By Night – The Concept Space and Food Experience at The Depanneur, Part I

Deb | December 24, 2011 | atebyatescrapbooking.wordpress.com

Have you ever been to a place that makes you feel so inspired, so excited, and so at home that you can’t believe it hasn’t always been a part of your life?  A place that makes you feel so full of life that all you want to do is soak in everything that goes on around you when you’re in this space?  If you have, you know the amazing sense of warmth and comfort I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, I’m about to tell you about the best foodie discovery I have made since I started Ate by Ate.  No wait, scratch that, the best foodie discovery I have EVER made.  I KNOW, this is a big deal!  You all know how I feel about finding gems around the city so when I say I’ve found a holy grail, you know it’s a monumental phenomenon.  Not only have I found a wonderful, exciting food spot in the city that serves healthy, delicious eats, but encompasses everything I love about food.

The Depanneur, located on College Street between Dufferin and Dovercourt, isn’t just an eatery that serves weekend brunch, organic food, and daily breakfasts and lunches.  It’s a concept space.  A breakfast and lunch cafe by day; a supper club by night.  The Depanneur holds workshops, cooking classes, serves breakfast and lunch, hosts themed dinner parties, provides an open kitchen space for passionate lovers of cooking and food, and functions as a launching pad for food entrepreneurs and independent food businesses.  I am so happy I got the chance to sit down with Len, owner and brains behind The Depanneur, to talk about the space and its contextual situation within the greater food community.


Welcome to the new food order | Toronto Star

Len Senater in front of the old convenience store he aims to convert into The Depanneur, a coffee shop that will convert into a supper club in the evening. (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR) 

Welcome to the new food order

Toronto’s A La Cart food-cart program didn’t die in vain. Creative ideas abound for new eating spaces that break the traditional restaurant model.

By DAVID SAX | Sat., May 14, 2011 | Toronto Star

Len Senater has a plan, or more accurately, a scheme. Over a lunch of reheated homemade Indian food in his kitchen (“It’s leftovers,” he offers with a shrug, “it’s what you have for lunch”), the 40-year-old designer paints a picture of a food-focused community space outside the boundaries of the traditional restaurant. Next month, in an old convenience store at the corner of College St. and Rusholme Park Cres., Senator will open The Depanneur, a low-key coffee shop that during the day will serve coffee (no espresso), tea and toast.

Coffee shops are nothing radical, but his plans for The Depanneur at night make Senater a bit of a maverick. He’ll close to the public, push together the tables and host the Rusholme Park Supper Club, a sort of permanent pop-up restaurant with a rotation of chefs, menus, concepts and diners.

“The idea of locking myself in the back of a restaurant, slaving away to cook the same thing for people I never meet, does not seem to be a fun way to spend my days,” says Senater. “I asked myself, ‘How could I get closer to food in a fun way while avoiding the traditional pitfalls that plague the restaurant model?’”

It’s a question that many in the city are asking these days, especially since the disastrous A la Cart food-cart program was mercy-killed by City Council last month. That doomed experiment — inspired by food lovers and chefs to bring more diverse choices to Toronto’s streets — was micromanaged and strangled by bureaucracy, bankrupting owners and disappointing eaters.

But it did not die in vain.