Where to find healthy and affordable food in Ottawa this fall
There’s a new café on Rideau Street that’s so much more than meets the eye. Launched by The Ottawa Mission, Chef Ric’s is a social enterprise combining a community café, catering business and culinary training school for people looking to re-enter the workforce.
The culinary program has been running since 2004 at The Ottawa Mission, and students have gone on to work at community staples such as Thyme & Again and the Lord Elgin Hotel. In fact, 90% of graduates quickly secure quality jobs within the industry. The move this month to 384 Rideau Street – the former Rideau Bakery – will further expand the program so that even more students can benefit each year.
Chef Ric’s is named for Ric Allen-Watson, The Mission’s longtime chef and founder of the Food Services Training Program. He noticed the lack of options for affordable and nutritious food in the neighbourhood, so he wanted to help fill the gap.
“We wanted to ensure that healthy and affordable food was available to everyone who lives and works in this area, regardless of income,” he explains.
The idea of the social enterprise is simple, really. His students help prepare and sell the food to gain more experience, and the community gets delicious, wholesome food at a reasonable price. Like the Rideau Bakery before it, Chef Ric’s welcomes people on any budget and from all walks of life.
Current culinary student Erica La France came to Ottawa after she and her children fled an unsafe situation. This also meant she had to leave her previous culinary school halfway through the program. After taking time to heal and rest, she came to The Mission to complete her training.
“I like the community feel of Chef Ric’s,” she says. “This isn't just about feeding the rich. We are feeding a whole community of people.”
With menu items ranging from $1 to $7, there’s something for everyone. Plus, with all the proceeds going right back into The Mission’s training program, there’s never been a better time – or reason – to enjoy a coffee, croissant or charcuterie plate. In fact, we’ve put together a few sample menu items and combinations at three different price points.
You won’t have to skimp on quantity or quality to keep your café visit affordable. Here are a few items and sample pairings for less than the cost of a drink somewhere else.
- Freshly-baked pastry ($1.25)
- Milk and a freshly-baked cookie ($2.25)
- Small homemade soup of the day ($2.99)
- Large coffee and a fresh muffin ($2.50)
At this mid-range price, you have options for a full lunch or breakfast made in-house with the best ingredients. This includes items in the Grab & Go fridge for quick and convenient meal options.
- Large homemade soup ($3.99)
- Classic egg-salad sandwich ($3.99)
- Big hot breakfast special ($4.99)
- Pesto and grilled vegetable panini ($4.99)
At the café’s top price point, you will find made-to-order sandwiches or wraps, fresh Grab & Go lunches and frozen homemade dinners to enjoy later.
- Turkey with cranberry aioli ($5.99)
- Shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie ($6.99)
- Charcuterie plate ($6.99)
- Quinoa salad with nuts, fruit and roasted Brussel sprouts ($6.99)
Chef Ric’s is open Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s the perfect spot to grab breakfast, lunch or a frozen dinner to go while supporting an amazing cause.