For ten years, the Depanneur was a West End staple. As owner Len Senator always said, it was “a place where interesting food things happened“. I spent years at the Dep (I was one of Len’s Depanniers). First as a drop-in dinner participant and later, teaching regular cooking classes. I also hosted pop-ups and was often hired as a chef for people who held their events there. I honed my skills as a cook and discovered a love of teaching that I didn’t even know was there. The Dep gave so many people like me opportunities to learn and grow that just didn’t exist elsewhere. Len is relentlessly generous with his time, energy and resources.

A legacy of outreach through sharing food

Len Senator in front of this former corner store turned funky hub of food creativity

Syrian refugee women gathered to cook their food from home communally and ended up teaching classes and catering to generate much-needed income. The Newcomer Kitchen was born. One night you would find professional chefs trying out new recipes to an eager group. The next might see a pair of Aunties whipping up a five-course Indian feast at the urging of their nephew. You could take classes on whole hog butchery, cheese making or, on the other hand, attend my Sous Weed demo. If it involved the cooking/sharing/eating of food, you could find it at The Dep.

Depanneur- Len Get’s A Crazy Idea

Before the Depanneur closed its doors for good, Len decided to create a cookbook celebrating the place and the amazing people who cooked there. With gorgeous photos by Ksenija Hotic, Len has filled it with stories, memories and recipes from 100 of the people who spent time in this iconic kitchen. After he locked the door for good, Len took a long sabbatical in South Asia to contemplate the future and work on the cookbook.


I am very proud of my inclusion in the cookbook and was honoured when Len asked me to join two other women to test the 100 recipes. It was challenging and extremely rewarding work. Three years later, Canada’s most successful Kickstarter cookbook is coming to a bookstore near you!

Greg Coulliard picking Thai basil : photo by Ksenija Hotic

The Depanneur Cookbook comes out on March 5 but you can pre-order on Amazon, Indigo or your local bookstore.

I am also thrilled to say that although the brick-and-mortar place is no more, Len has started up the classes, workshops and food happenings in venues around the city. Be sure to sign up for the Depanneur newsletter so you don’t miss out on the fun. Maybe I’ll see you there.