Dinner inspired by a show

by Jessica Wong, CBCNews.ca

I’m a homebody and don’t usually venture out on what I still think of as “school nights.” But when I do, it’s usually a mad dash from the office to find some decent grub before heading to a ballet or opera performance (I figure they balance out with my love for trashy magazines and American Gladiators).

Squeezing in a nice dinner before a show, however, can sometimes be problematic. Time is always an issue — I like to have at least 90 minutes to enjoy dinner, even if it’s a cheap and cheerful meal.

It’s an issue that Toronto-based promoter and event-planner Kate Daniels also considered, especially as the city’s second annual Luminato arts and cultural festival approached. For 10 days in early June, Luminato spreads a vast canopy of music, dance, theatre, poetry and storytelling across several downtown ‘hoods.

With so many great chefs cooking in the same areas as many of the festival’s high-profile performances, Daniels sensed a way to incorporate food into the mix.

“Chefs are artists,” she said. “Why not take some of the best culinary artists of the city and … match them up with Luminato?”

She and her team (along with restaurateur Michael Rubino) were delighted to discover that many of the city’s prominent chefs were eager to join participate, including Claudio Aprile, David Lee and Guy Rubino.

The challenge presented to each chef was to create a prix-fixe menu inspired by a specific nearby performance.

So, for instance, someone might opt for a three-course meal featuring ingredients like cumin, mango and banana-lime curry at Mark McEwan’s newest restaurant, One, before heading down to take in a South-Asian production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

While the chefs were largely granted free reign menu-wise, the only caveat was to ensure that diners could enjoy a lovely meal and get to their seats in time. This lets Luminato patrons start their evening of culture with dinner and not afterwards, Daniels said.

Restaurants offering pre-show meals inspired by local arts performances: it’s not a radical new idea, but it’s something that is welcome, especially as the busy summer festival season gets underway.