They say that need is the mother of all inventions. And for students, late night food delivery is a major need! Enter: Chef on Call. The brainchild of Gabriel Malbogat and Robert Kaufman, who got fed up of paying for crappy food night after night, and decided to take matters into their own hands.
Trying to Keep up with Demand
With the mission of serving quality food right to the doors of hungry millennials, this duo started their business in the kitchen of their tiny apartment, and quickly moved up to a downtown commercial kitchen where their biggest challenge was keeping up with demand.
A second location sprouted on Bishop Street in 2012, and this week, along with Brian Rotsztein, I was invited to an exclusive behind the scenes of their brand new central kitchen/resto that replaces their first location on Sherbrooke Street.
A Labour of Love and Dedication
This new location is not only the product of the labour of love that is Chef on Call, but also a symbol of the evolution and maturation of the friendship and partnership between Gab and Rob. With great pride, they showed me around the beautiful space, which aside from sporting a spacious high-end prep kitchen (manned by Raffi who happens to be Chef on Call’s very first employee back in the day), also offers an attractive sitting area with counter service.
New Location with Counter Service
Designed by DSD Design, which has extensive experience with restaurants, the space is modern and relaxing. Wood abounds, it features several booths and one large bar table at the centre. Looking up, the wood paneling is engraved with the names of several familiar Montreal streets, which represent each of the locations where Gab and Rob have shared an apartment. A cozy space with free wi-fi, perfect for a work session or grabbing a bite with friends.
Unrivalled Comfort Food
Chef on Call currently boasts an impressive menu, serving “everything except pizza,” including several healthy and vegetarian options. From the ubiquitous burgers, poutines and pastas, to their panko encrusted chicken tender specialty (with a real piece chicken breast!), and a variety of salads and wraps on the lighter and healthier side.
For your sweet tooth, they offer an impressive choice of milk shakes (I couldn’t stop gulping the Oreo one!), a pot de crème so light and luscious, and a deep fried mars bar that left me licking my fingers.
Made from Scratch
The secret of Chef on Call’s success is no secret at all. Chatting over a sample of their favourite dishes, Gab and Rob told me about how it all came to fruition: They set out to be the best food delivery service in the city, and for that, they stuck to some very basic principles.
First and foremost: No frozen or processed foods. Everything you order from Chef on Call is made from scratch. Everything. From the panko encrusted chicken tenders, to the french fries and their famous dipping sauces (there are about 10 of them, I recommend you order extra), it is all made in-house.
Second, despite the extra work involved in preparing food from scratch, efficiency was not to be compromised. Their rule of thumb is to have everything cooked to order in under 10 minutes. As if this was not efficient enough, Chef on Call has its own army of delivery guys, with as many as 15 cars roaming the streets of Montreal on a busy night.
Gabriel tells me that a lot of thought goes into the transportation of the food, so there are always drivers available, and all items on the menu have been tested to account for the delivery time. And speaking of delivery, the area Chef on Call serves is surprisingly large – from Westmount on the west, to Papineau on the east, and all the way between the Old Port to Outremont in the north. And they are open till 4am!
Third, Gab and Rob run the show very close to their customers. As local business owners they have a pulse on their clientele that no corporate counterpart could rival. This is not only evident on the product mix and location choices, but also on the flexibility of the business, which nowadays also includes catering. This kind of proximity to their customers and their community also allows Chef on Call to payback. Every month, they feature a charity burger, where $1 of each sale goes to a chosen community organization.
Should you try Chef on Call?
My dining experience at Chef on Call left me satisfied on several levels: delicious quality comfort food, cozy and trendy ambiance, and the pleasure of sharing a meal with two young businessmen who have left their mark on a city notoriously tough on small businesses. Chef on Call has surpassed its initial goal to serve students. It is now the go to place for any food delivery need, be it for business or pleasure. Yes, you should try it. I look forward to this new phase of Chef on Call’s evolution.