“You guys are two peas in a pod. You should work together!”
That quote was a bit of wisdom aimed at Sheila Whyte (from husband and business partner Clayton Kennedy). Whyte, you may know, is the owner of Thyme & Again Creative Catering and Take Home Food Shop. The other “pea in the pod” is Michael Moffatt, long-serving Ottawa chef, formerly (for some 14 years) with the Beckta trio of restaurants.
This month, Michael and Sheila have taken Clayton’s advice, and have joined forces under the Thyme & Again banner.
They’ve worked together before – on the advisory board of Algonquin College’s culinary program, on an elementary school breakfast program, at the Chefs & Shows partnership with the Great Canadian Theatre Company, and at the feeding of the one thousand (together with Stephen Beckta) at the Canada’s Table event in August of last year. The timing for teaming up “felt totally right,” they tell me, over coffee at Thyme & Again’s Exposure Gallery, the upstairs space of this lovely old brownstone on Wellington West.
This is also where Sheila shares a further expansion: a second home for Thyme & Again, a big kitchen work space and take-away location in the Carling Avenue building that used to house The Beer Store (near Sherbourne Avenue, next to Produce Depot).
“This place, this building is bursting at the seams,” Whyte explains. “If we wanted to keep growing — and we do — we couldn’t do it here. We needed to expand our space and our team. Mike and I work well together. We always have, and we both want to create something fresh and different in the city.”
Moffatt brings a vision from the restaurant world to Whyte’s table. He’s helped open and operate three quite different restaurants in three distinct neighbourhoods, and he’s led and launched a good number of this city’s most talented chefs. (Among them, Ross Fraser of Fraser Café and The Rowan; Katie Brown Ardington currently personal chef to Prime Minister Trudeau; Sonia Marwick, now at Clunie Bistro in Toronto; Rich Wilson of The Pomeroy House; Anna March at Edgar; Chris Wylie at Gezellig; Tim Stock at Play; Ben Ing, now head chef at Copenhagen’s Noma; ) “Thyme & Again” says Sheila, “has much to learn from Mike’s restaurant experience.” And I, adds Moffatt “have much to learn from the catering world, and from Sheila’s strong team.”
For his part, Moffatt sees the partnership as a chance to make something new. “I’m interested in creating experiences where food plays a part, but where the event is bigger than just food.” With Sheila, he says, “…it becomes all about refining the hospitality model, about creating collaborations with the wider community.”
This ambition feels like a happy fit. Thyme & Again is known for the thousands of events it’s created and catered over 26 years of operation, for its take-home treats, its café and gallery space. But it’s known, too, for more than these. Sheila Whyte, it’s fair to say, is a “giver” and she, with her team, have had a wider mission to be useful to their community, to reach out and gather in, to be more than just a catering company. What the Whyte-Moffatt collaboration cook up next will be something to watch.
Thyme & Again, two-point-oh (the name is still in the works) will be a place to stop by for ready-to-eat meals, with a full production kitchen behind the customer counters. That’s the barebones, anyway. There’s some chatter about future projects it would like to take on. “But it’ll find its legs,” Moffatt laughs. “The one thing I’ve learned in helping open three restaurants in this city, is that it’s the guests that will tell us what they want. Our job is to listen.”
The new location is scheduled to open in early May.