I’ve been describing the new The Grounds Cafe to neighbours as a “new coffee shop” in our neighbourhood but that doesn’t really do it justice. Yes, they do coffee, chai tea lattes, macchiatos and anything else you’d expect from a modern cafe, but they also do great food, especially breakfast and lunch.
The man in the kitchen is Jon Forget, a Red Seal certified chef who’s previously cooked at several prestigious locations in Ottawa including Rideau Hall, 24 Sussex Drive and the Royal Canadian Mint. He’s studied under renowned Ottawa chef John Taylor. The Grounds owners Patrick Caicco and Robert Kinsman were looking for a chef who could create premium food that’s fresh and upbeat — known in the industry as gastropub or casual fine dining.
“I’ve showed there’s a difference between cooks and chefs,” says Forget. “We offer a higher quality product that might not be expected in cafes.”
His concept for The Grounds is focused on microbatch cooking. Here’s how he describes it: “We cook for what we need during the day: deli meat, sliced cheese, compound salads, green salads, soups and vinaigrettes made fresh daily. You never have old inventory because you are paying attention to sales and finding an algorithm for how much product you need to prepare each day.”
“You might find an olive tapenade with a locally-grown hot house tomato. When we offer roasted vegetables we aren’t offering a generic roasted veg; we have leeks, heirloom beets and local produce. The cheeses we use are premium cheeses, premium deli meats. The chicken breast is free range, no hormones. We’re using gastriques, we’re doing tapinades, infused butters, a lot of different things like that. A garlic ailoi – we’ll go the full nine yards with a scratch mayo instead of a bucket mayo. Our soups are interesting.”
“We’re still developing the menu. It takes time. It’s not just food products, it’s frappucinos, italian sodas. The cold menu is coming out now and we’re developing these products. If the frappucino isn’t up to the standard that people expect from Starbucks, for example, the customer might just return to Starbucks and won’t come back. They have high expectations, they are doing comparisons between The Grounds and Starbucks – that’s a big compliment! I tell Rob and Pat – you have one location, and the image of the brand is an upper class brand, which is exactly what they’re striving for.”
For now Forget is in the kitchen six days a week, usually 7am-4pm. One of the benefits of his microbatch approach is that the menu changes all the time. It’s a busy spot at lunch with lots of workers getting a bite to eat, and I often run into neighbours on the weekend grabbing breakfast. We’re lucky to have Forget and The Grounds as part of our community, and I encourage everyone to check them out. It’s much more than just coffee!