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Chef Lily of ChuChai: Awaiting battle

On June 15th, 2013 for the Vegan Rumble & Shake ChuChai backed by: D-Trois Pierres, Les Douceurs du Marché, 4 Corners of the Table, Majiza Phillip Rhythm’n’Groove and Mélanie Dusseault Photographe; faced-off agains:

Chef Luis of Green Panther: Ready to Rumble (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Green Panther backed by Carya and Zephyr farms, Truffe Import, Brutalimentation, GOA pilates and Jean-Phillippe Cousineau Illustrator; and against

Stéphanie Audet of Crudessence battling in the Corners (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Crudessence backed by Lufa Farms, Prana, Sportera, Midnight Poutine and Rachel et Michel Video Productions. This was my experience of it as an organizer….

Haim Shoham and Catherine Riendeau on team Green Panther in a pilates struggle! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

The Vegan Rumble & Shake felt like having two brides and a groom (vegan ones, of course) and their respective and eclectic families under one roof. There was the food, dancing, confrontation, emotion, the ceremony that was a little drawn-out, couples were formed, people let loose and the guests from different spots in society coming together.

One of the Rumble & Shake Love Stories (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

For myself, I felt like the over-zealous mother-in-law in adrenaline-land worrying if everything was going to come together…. until the moment actually arrived and then it all whirled by. Like a wedding, you plan and plan for a day that goes by quickly and when it gets there, you try to just relax and hope nothing goes seriously wrong.

Yours Truly enjoying the wily festivities (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

When it went down, it was inspiring to see what comes out of combining so many talented people, their products and  getting them to strut their stuff.

Chef Lily of ChuChai Recruiting soldiers (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Really, with all of these fine-tuned professionals, nothing could go wrong, they just had to do their thing.

Haim Shoham the owner of Green Panther with a fresh truffle from Truffe Import (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

The Weapons (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:



From the wild mushrooms, that were supplied to the sprouts and unconventional herbs, like chocolate mint and anise hyssop, kale, fresh garlic scapes, rhubarb, arugula, maple syrup and strawberries from the farms,to the raw decadence of Crudessence Stéphanie Audet’s dessert,

Stéphanie Audet's "Perfect Plate"(Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Chef Lily of ChuChai’s tightly crafted rolls,and Chef  Luis of Green Panther’s fun and festive felafels, the deliciousness and freshness was off the charts.

Catherine Riendeau from Truffe Import trying to get Chef Lily's salad roll in one bite! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Chef Lily eating Green Panther's felafel (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:


Crudessence took the trophy for bravado with Stéphanie Audet being hoisted like a championand David Côté’s Rocky-style boxing training,

Crudessence on top of the world! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

David Côté Crudessence's Founder and Champion (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Green Panther did their muscle flexing and red carpet cameos, but Chef Lily had the quiet assurance and grace of a ninja. The variety was the most resplendent aspect of the night to me, and I could have crowned different players for different things, but the combination of all of the creations seemed to over-shadow the unicity of a winner: each contender was a champion in their division.

Haim Shoham lovin' it! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

The old-school hip hop dancers,

Tisha Breaking it down for team ChuChai. Man, "That Girl is Poison!" (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

GOA’s pilates’ crew

Mariano and Véro from GOA: Making pilates a game! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

and Sportera rocked the house.

Gary Pillu and girlfriend Valérie of Sportera (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

It was nice to see good and healthy food linked to energy, participation and unconventionality. When I planned this aspect, I wanted it to be like a scene from Westside story where the crews face-off by dancing and singing.

Feet moving! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

I didn’t want passive observers waiting on the sidelines for what comes next, but to get in the Rumble and get their hands dirty with the chefs. This was the second biggest thrill to me.

Chef Lily and recruited soldiers in battle (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Tisha, Makeda and Suzanne really killed it, finishing their Bell Biv Devoe choreaography of “Poison” with an up-in-your-face ass smacking aimed at the competition.

You want some of this- Suzanne Rigden- representing team ChuChai, winner of $200 in organic vegetables from D-Trois Pierres (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

They called out “When I say Chu, you say Chi, Chu- Chai, Chu-Chai” They even said “Crudessence, Green Panther- pssshh, who are they?”

Bad Mamma Jamma- Suzanne Bruneau- body and soul united on the dance floor! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

They rocked the dis as it can only be done in the old school. Makeda even had the hot pants and halter-top- shazam!

Bring it on! Makeda hip hop dancer extraordinaire from team ChuChai (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

GOA’s Dana, Véro and Mariano surprised us, and showed the versatility of pilates; people were having fun and playing and I saw many legs shaking with effort for their teams.

Having fun with pilates (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

A soldier almost down! Pilates is tougher than it looks! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:


Sportera was the best match with Crudessence in sheer oomph and pep and the competitors moved around double-time with David Côté and Stéphanie Audet seriously scouting the most die-hard soldiers from up-above.

Never felt so alive! Sportera work-out (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Sportera Creative coacing: tight-fit with the creative Crudessence team (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

The food at 10:45pm was a welcome reward,

HMMMM! GOOOODD! Organic, fresh and spontaneous! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Erica Dancose manager of Les Douceurs du Marché team ChuChai enjoying the Crudessence creation (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:


and the buzzing around the tables from station to station and chef to chef,

Proud helpers! Great creations! Sporting the Green panther hat! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Soldiers helping their chefs (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:


tasting and chatting created a cloud of sighs, satiation and sheer pleasure.

All helpers, all winners! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Michael Mooney- Ecstatic winner of Lufa's $200 vegetable prize! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:


Many of the winners of the prizes came to me bubbling with joy and thank you’s. The mutual gratitude that flowed between the businesses and the participants was unbelievable. From bi-weekly CSA baskets over the season given by Carya to shocked helper Justine Ethier,  to the $200 dinner at ChuChai to Mélodie, all-day workshops in Crudessence’s Living Foods academy to Élodie, Michael Mooney jumping around in celebration for his $200 Lufa prize and Romain Rougier that left with his fresh truffle from Truffe Import, there was much to celebrate.

English announcer Mathieu Bergeron and French announcer Laurie Paquet. ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE? (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Fraternizing with the enemy! Stéphanie Audet and Haim Shoham; Good friends, but mortal enemies! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:


There were less people than we had hoped, just over one hundred, but it was the right number for the space. The bios were a little long and after the hype of presenting the contenders, the zealous exercise, and unbelievable food it concluded with those who had been recruited by the chefs being the real winners, instead of crowning a team. The shake didn’t go-down after the strenuous exercise and eating and the food wasn’t formally presented nor the ingredients from the farmers and the food suppliers, although, many got the details from the farmers, chefs and suppliers by getting to know them personally.
The imperfection aside, it was a beautiful sight to behold these three clans together and the public joining-in the out-pouring of energy and the culinary muscle flexing and to see people leave well-fed and many with hefty prizes.

Gettin' loose! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Rising to the challenge! (Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Many people have already asked that the event be re-done. I am all for it and I know the spots that need to be buffered.  I also hope all of the contenders can get divorced so we can get married again next year, with less ceremony, more reception, a little earlier and, of course, with a panel of judges and a champion belt to seal the deal!  Be there or be square at the VVEEEGGAANNN RRRRRUMMMMBLE and SSSHHHHAAAKKKEE 2nd edition!

Thank you to Mélanie Dusseault Photographe for all of the wonderful photos and for going above and beyond the call of duty!

Special shout-out to Aisha Issa of Nutrisco Sensorial Marketing who promotes Drugstore and ChuChai and co-organized with me and who has opened-up the world of fantasy event-planning to me!

Check-out the articles of fellow blogger Amie Watson of Midnight Poutine (member of the Raw in Montreal group- like me!) and Rachel et Michel’s super-duper video

and Mariève Savaria of Brutalimentation and Jean-Phillippe Cousineau’s wonderful drawings

The Pensive Chef Lily: Quiet and Powerful- Ready to win next year. Chef of my team! I swear allegiance!(Photo by Mélanie Dusseault:

Judith- farmer extraordinaire with vegetable soup made with her farm's vegetables!

If you are one of the little group of roughly 100 people that read my blog,then you definitely saw the crazy videos of Dinner Club’s 8 year anniversary in the metro. This January was our nine year anniversary and we were perplexed as to how to out-do our metro stint. What could be bigger than using the public space to celebrate food, drink, camaraderie, free-thinking and action? Well the only way to move up on the scale was to bring in the joy of good deed and sharing and climb up a moral rung. Ameur Manceur, one of our take the bull-by-the-horns kind of members, suggested we cook for the homeless. Yes! We had it! Sharing our love and joy with Montreal is great, but sharing our food and cooking with those who actually need it seemed even more precious. The members agreed, and most importantly, Majiza, Suzanne and Tisha making the main meal were all for it.

Suzanne, mother of Tisha and Majiza

I called around. Benedict Labre House was closed on Friday January 20th, the day we had agreed upon. The Old Brewery Mission was enthusiastic, but we settled on The Welcome Hall Mission in Little Burgundy as it was closer to home for most of us in the Southwest of Montreal. We would cook dinner for 170 homeless people for 6pm on Friday January 20th.

Har har- Matt the Grubby Sailor Bergeron

The tasks were distributed under the theme of “stick to your ribs” aka comfort food. Majiza, Tisha and Suzanne would make chicken macaroni and cheese with 20 lbs of chicken breast cubes donated by the Réseau d’entraide de Verdun. Ameur would bring a medley of frozen vegetables, Judith a vegetable and barley soup with vegetables from the farm D-Trois Pierres, Jeremy- biscuits mixed at Wing’s, me and Gisèle each a dessert (Hazelnut and chocolate brittle that came out as a toffee and a chocolate and bacon cake…cochon!) Shahram, Michelle, Pierre, Dunja and my friend Matthew (who came as a surprise!) all brought drinks and came as special guests.

Majiza co-ordinating the Chicken Mac and Cheese main dish

This was a daunting task for most, but everyone was up for the challenge. The three days preceding the event I started getting calls asking about quantities and whether all of the necessary equipment would be on site etc.

Mass Production

We all trickled in slowly the day of. Jeremy was the first and was there with his hair net, as if he’d always worked there. Their regular staff was very helpful and took us in and guided us through and responded to our questions and requests. The members were all a little anxious about not having enough, but mostly, we were very excited. In fact, we had all been so worried about the feat that we all chose very easy dishes and so spent a leisurely time cooking and socializing and dancing to the music on the radio (“Another Night, Another Day”, “Rhythm is a Dancer”, “Beat it”, “Time After Time” It was as if they put one of my party mixes on the radio).

Arrived in advance with a hair-net, biscuit dough mixed and a mass-production attitude: Jeremy the man!

New and Occasional Members moved by the cause and to help out

We were right on time, and everything but my dessert went smoothly….The dinning room tables were cleared out and a plastic retractable curtain separated us from those waiting to eat. Each course was lined up so that the people eating would pass and get everything on their tray all at once. We were all lined up ready with spoons, ladles, dessert plates and glasses of juice. They opened the door and then we saw the crowd. A crowd of 170 people isn’t necessarily impressive, but 170 people who really need this meal and are waiting for charity is a humbling and sobering experience. Everything had to function just so and security is there waiting in case mayhem breaks out. People are hungry, on edge, some are sick, and many down-trodden.

This is going to sound harsh, but it seems like they are “other” humans- like they have been reduced to an animal life,  living just to satisfy their basic carnal needs. When you give food to each individual, though, you realize they are just like you and me. Their souls shone through and were closer to the surface than ours. There were all ages and people of different social and ethnic backgrounds. For many, you could tell that their life had gotten routed onto a precarious track. I could see myself in their place. I knew that in the trick of a few sudden events that could easily be me. It also struck me how much most of us find to complain about, but these people were so grateful for the food we had made them. I’m capable of having some terse words or thoughts about food that I find unsatisfactory, but these people were just happy to eat. The food was simple and heavy since it is too difficult to go all out financially and technically on that scale, but they made comments like “C’est comme Noel” (It’s like Christmas!) and many came back to thank us after the meal. Even though starch and sugar is what feeds the masses and also keeps them in a bad glycemic cycle, that’s reality when you’re trying to give people what they need to survive. Local, organic, vegetarian, etc, etc. Guilt guilt, etc. are all the food accessories and luxuries that disguise the fact that food first of all is sustenance. Anybody could be there… and was there, waiting for charity: the well-versed, the meticulous, the beautiful, the charismatic, the young- anyone and everyone. Count your blessings!

Ready to serve and be served... a Reality Check

We ate quickly and quietly in the place where they had eaten, and the staff took care of the dishes. We all felt good and many members told me that the experience was very special to them, but we experienced a much quieter and more soulful contentment compared to the 2011 boisterous euphoria of eating in the metro. We weren’t making a public spectacle, but remembering our place and what we had. There is a good chance the experience will become annual. They got a nice meal made with love and we got to feed our souls…

Thanks guys. I'll always remember it...

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January 2011 was the 8 year anniversary of the dinner club . We had agreed to do something epic in December 2010: eat in a metro train. On Sunday January 16th, we met at 7:30 pm on the passage over-looking the metro tracks at Côte-Vertu metro. Everyone had backpacks with food, utensils and dishes. Some carried folding chairs, Judith a folding table and I had a table-cloth and adhesive Velcro. As the first members arrived, the anticipation of watching the trains below come and go and waiting for the other members created an electric buzz. By the time I got there, and I was one of the last ones, the buzz was popping out of peoples’ eyes. Voices were shrill yet restrained and giggles were many.

Once all of the illustrious members minus one had arrived, we verified the hour- right on time- and gave the signal- “go, go” . We shuffled down the stairs to the platform over-excited, and whispering. The train was waiting as Cote-Vertu is a terminus. Direction Montmorency- yes, we were riding all the way into that other world of Laval! But which wagon to get into? We consulted in a giddy panic…The second to last. We crashed in and then took stock of the surroundings two blasé solo riders. The beep announcing departure sounded and the doors closed. “Go-go!” We set up a table between the metro seats and some folding chairs. I covered the table with a retro table-cloth and we starts putting velcro on the bottoms of plastic plates and glasses and fastening them to the table-cloth. By the time we had gotten to Namur- we were ready to eat!

The theme of the meal, customized to eating in the metro in January was: food that boosts the immune system. We started with squash soup and banana bread. The first passengers were divided between gaping at us in awe and doing everything to not gape at us in awe, but when we got to Snowdon a lot of people came in. We didn’t expect so many for a Sunday evening. We shared the experience and sheer joy- giving banana bread to the passengers. Downtown we started serving lentil salad and the wagon was packed! People were freaking-out (in a good way): loving the reclaiming of public space, eating the food and taking tons of photos and giving us praise for the bold move. We watched in euphoria citizens with gaping mouths staring at us as we passed through the stations or peoples’ shock when they got in the train and looked up out of their daze to see us.

(Thanks to Eric Hansen for the video montage)

 We started serving the meal around Berri: 40 garlic clove chicken and ginger roasted vegetables, accompanied by pungent condiments to ward off the germs: delicious!. After we got through downtown, dinner was quieter and we started to feel at home in our wagon. We ate peacefully- yet always interacting with our surroundings. As we approached Laval, we judged that we wouldn’t have time to eat dessert, so we packed up, got out at Laval and ate dessert on the way back. Dessert was apples stuffed with dried fruit, ginger and spices and baked in a crust and served with spiced apple cider. This was a nice ending. We quietly packed up and got out at Berri to go have a beer and do some kind of de-briefing.

The dinner club’s eight year anniversary was special because we proved you could do dinner club anywhere or anyhow you liked. We had inspired ourselves- we were gutsy, creative and we proved that the barriers that people experience are usually self-imposed or imagined. The passengers were as ecstatic as we were and the only STM employee we saw took a photo of us with his cell phone and gave us a thumbs up.

We shared our way of getting down each month and some of the food that was made with love by our members. We also made the public space one of interaction and expression, for at least that night. The experience got people out of their shells; it got them away from their concentrated floor, wall and book gazing and got them people watching. We also put on display and celebration the bonds we’ve forged through cooking and eating together for eight years.

Topping the eight year anniversary this year is going to be a challenge. If you have any larger than life quirky ideas or themes, please send them in. We are open and willing. The best idea will probably be nested until the ten year anniversary in 2013!

Private Members in the Public Space

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