Just as Coconut Lagoon introduced the city to the southern coastal cuisine of Kerala, I wanted to showcase the experience of thali. This is essentially what our second restaurant does. It serves a daily tasting menu only, giving my kitchen the freedom to be creative every day, and our diners to experience a mini buffet on the plate, served at communal tables. A guest has only to decide on the type of thali (vegetarian, meat, chicken, fish…) and within a few minutes of ordering, the food arrives.

Thali opened in late 2018 on a busy corner of downtown Ottawa. It’s a big place, at street level, wrapped in tall windows and streaming with light. And soon, we discovered to our delight, it was streaming with life! But the pandemic hit like a sledgehammer. The towers emptied, the downtown streets became desolate and all those office workers who walked through our doors every day were suddenly working from home. We managed to continue offering take-away food, and the pandemic also allowed us to serve members of our community for whom the lockdowns were particularly difficult. These were the seniors, people with mobility issues, those living in precarious situations, refugees and new Canadians trying to feed their families in temporary housing. We called our little social enterprise Food for Thought. Two years later, and Food for Thought now has its own commercial kitchen, a dozen paid staff, and the support of dozens more volunteers, government grants and a much-appreciated charitable status.

Now we are back and serving lunch and dinner at Thali