Inventive food and local music with a side of community boosterism is the eclectic business model at Lola D’s Eat, Grow and Think Creative.
The company is the brainchild of Paul Ormond, a fine dining chef, and Kerri Stephens, a touring musician, who were in desperate need of a creative distraction after their St. Malo home burned to the ground in February.
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LOLA D'S APPETIZER POP-UP
• X-Cues Cafe and Lounge, 551 Sargent Ave.
• Thurs., Aug. 26; 4 to 8 p.m.
Dancing Like a Wet Noodle - Bakala and potato fish cake, cornmeal crust, spicy tomato jam, lemon aioli, parsley, lemon, olive oil
Kotah the Kid - Filipino barbecue pork skewers, banana ketchup glaze, green papaya and carrot archara, toasted sesame seed, green onion
Kai’s Quick Quip - Pea and pecorino arancini, Panko crust, sweet peas, confit garlic, Romesco sauce, basil aioli, celery heart salad
• All dishes are $11 and come with three items per order — mixing and matching available. A portion of proceeds will be donated to Sunshine House.
• Live music performances by Kerri Stephens, JD and The Sunshine Band, Nation of Two and TJ Blair.
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The couple — along with three dogs, a cat and her litter of kittens — has been living in a small RV in St. Malo Provincial Park for months while their house is being rebuilt.
"Living in this park, in this trailer with however many animals has just been chaos… we actually needed this for ourselves right now," Stephens says of the venture. "It’s exciting because these (events) are things to work towards."
So far, they’ve hosted two pop-up dinners and outdoor concerts at X-Cues Café and Lounge on Sargent Avenue with a third planned for next Thursday. Both previous events sold out quickly with a majority of proceeds donated to Winnipeg’s Sunshine House, an inclusive community drop-in and resource centre close to Ormond’s heart.
"My mom (Margaret) was the executive director for a long time… and almost everybody in my family has done something with Sunshine House — my brother does JD and The Sunshine Band and my little brother was teaching kickboxing," he says. "You go there and you see what you’re doing for people and it’s inspiring and it’s important."
Ormond and Stephens were also running a garden program on their property and donating fresh veggies to the centre while teaching participants how to grow food. The fire and ongoing drought have put a damper on things this summer, but they plan on bringing the program under the Lola D’s umbrella in the future. The couple also hope to expand into private catering and hosting fundraising events for a wider range of non-profits.
"Government funding has been pretty tough for these organizations to get," says Stephens, a former West End Cultural Centre staffer who has worked in the non-profit sector. "I know how easy it is to get burned out because you’re so overwhelmed with paperwork and trying to get financial help.
"If we can come up with a fundraiser specifically for them using food and music… hopefully they can come out feeling a little bit more supported."
Right now, however, their focus remains on the upcoming Aug. 26 pop-up, which will feature a series of appetizers, including baklava and potato fish cakes, Filipino barbecue skewers and arancini balls with peas and pecorino cheese. Previous events have featured sandwiches and tacos.
Ormond has cooked in fine dining restaurants across the city, such as 529 Wellington, the now-closed Sydney’s at The Forks and Sous Sol. After years of kitchen work, he’s excited to experiment with his own brand of upscale-casual fare.
"I get bored in restaurants, to be quite honest, it just gets mundane making the same thing over and over," he says, adding that he has a notebook full of future menu ideas.
Coming up with quirky, personal names for his dishes is also half the fun — the fish cakes, for example, have been dubbed ‘Dancing Like a Wet Noodle.’
"That’s because my mom used to force us to dance during Sunday dinners and she would always tell us not to dance like a wet noodle," Ormond says with a laugh. Lola D’s is also a reference to his beloved grandmother, Lola Dacquisto.
"If we can come up with a fundraiser specifically for them using food and music… hopefully they can come out feeling a little bit more supported." – Kerri Stephens
Ormond and Stephens have teamed up with sous chef Isaac Cassels, who works in the kitchen and drop-in program at Sunshine House.
"I prefer to work in the kitchen because I see that as my sort of love language to the community," she says. "To make good food, to make nutritious food, to make food that reminds people of the good times in their life."
Next Thursday’s pop-up will take place in the verdant outdoor patio behind X-Cues from 4 to 8 p.m. with music provided by Stephens, JD and The Sunshine Band, Nation of Two and TJ Blair. There will be 300 portions available and diners can pre-order by emailing email@example.com or stopping by the establishment at 551 Sargent Ave. the day of.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.