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Creating meaningful, shared experiences for local communities

Running June 13 to August 28, The Bentway’s Communal Table series welcomes a weekly rotation of passionate chefs and diverse culinary traditions that reflect the cultural richness of Toronto. Every Thursday, one of The Bentway’s massive civic rooms, framed by the Gardiner’s iconic columns (or “bents”), is transformed into an intimate outdoor dining experience where up to 50 guests gather for unique family-style meals, featuring live music, conversation-starters—and of course—delicious food.

Communal Table is curated by The Depanneur, a culinary incubator that plays host to drop-in dinners, cooking classes, foodie talks & workshops, kitchen rentals, and more. Len Senater, The Dep’s founder, sees communal dining experiences as an incredible vector for communication, community, and connection.  From a storefront on College St. that serves as The Dep’s home base,  Len creates opportunities for strangers to come together and share the food they create.

The partnership between The Bentway and The Depanneur for Communal Table was founded on the common ground of each organization’s mandate to create meaningful, shared experiences for local communities. When Len was tasked with curating a selection of meals for the series that represent Toronto, he was inspired by the possibilities of our city’s astonishing diversity: “There’s hardly any type of food that can’t be found somewhere in our big city,” he says, making Len’s job of selecting Communal Table’s culinary contributions both a tremendous challenge and an impressive feat.

As Len searched for foodie inspiration he considered unique to Toronto, he knew immediately that he had to include Newcomer Kitchen, an initiative spearheaded by The Dep that Len considers a keystone of Toronto’s cultural landscape and more recent collective history.  Newcomer Kitchen was born in 2016, when large numbers of Syrian refugees began to arrive in cities across Canada. What started as an idea to offer the use of the Dep’s kitchen to groups of newcomer Syrian women, grew into a 3-year pilot project, and since has evolved into a non-profit organization. The pilot, which disbursed more than $150,000 to over 80 Syrian women, included weekly pop-up events, a catering endeavour, and more social and economic opportunities for newly arrived refugee women. We were thrilled to welcome Newcomer Kitchen to the June 20 and July 25 Communal Table dinners to share their delicious food & hospitality with over 100 dinner guests.

As we celebrate Toronto’s culinary traditions, The Bentway is in the midst of creating our own: Toronto Life has spotlighted our Communal Table series as part of Toronto’s exciting food scene. In collaboration with The Depanneur, we are thrilled to be curating a new vision for “street food” that takes advantage of the incredible connecting power that food has.