A taste of Europe has arrived in Perth courtesy of Chez Faith, a new Gore Street home dining experience that is the culinary equivalent of the sharing economy’s Airbnb, the informal accommodation network where individuals lease their living space for short-term rentals.
Situated in a gorgeous 1870 heritage home with the original pine floors, Chez Faith is the brainchild of Faith Hutton, a music teacher, nutritional food enthusiast, cooking coach, and caterer who recently arrived in Lanark County to be closer to her aging Sharbot Lake father and adult children. It was while living in the UK for over 25 years that Hutton was inspired by the “supper club” trend that sees homeowners turning their dining rooms into “pop-up restaurants” for friends and strangers alike.
“I love to cook and cater, so it’s my idea of heaven,” says Hutton, but because the British home she shared with her “charming Scottish husband, Richard” was too small, she put the idea on hold until they purchased a Perth house. The large dining and living rooms brought the home dining notion to the front burner.
In 2009, the UK’s Independent newspaper called it “dining out with a difference, the latest foodie fad to hit London,” though the practice has long been a part of Cuban culture, with a variety of other global iterations as “living room restaurants.” They’ve also become a perfect launch pad for younger chefs without the capital to open an official restaurant to nonetheless hone their cooking chops and experiment with new dishes not found on standard menus.
Chez Faith is one of a half dozen pop-ups currently in Ontario, but as social media spreads the word, that number will likely grow — especially as attention to nutritional quality and a more intimate, personalized experience make them more attractive dining options.
Hutton welcomes both tourists and locals who are longing for the home-cooked experience without the work of food preparation, cleaning the house, doing the dishes or navigating a noisy, crowded space where talk is impossible. She offers a broad menu, from raw food and Mediterranean to Italian, Mexican, and Indonesian, among many others. A three-course meal costs as little as $40 per person.
Her attention to nutrition as well as food allergies and sensitivities – guarding against cross-contamination that is often a concern in larger settings – are key hallmarks of her commitment to feeding people healthy, wholesome meals.
The indoor space at Chez Faith seats up to 14 people and is perfect for family gatherings, birthday parties or staff dinners. A large living room provides a relaxing spot for pre- or post-meal drinks (visitors do have to bring their own alcoholic beverages, as Hutton is not licensed to serve. Guests can also eat outside in her large perennial gardens, which sport four ponds, a waterfall, and a screened-in dining area as well. A covered gazebo seats an additional eight people.
Guests can also expect some participatory musical surprises from Hutton, who teaches flute, harp, and ukulele. She brings out colour-coded handbells and, while awaiting dessert, she and her guests create a piece of music together. “Everyone loves it,” she says.
Even though pop-up restaurants are not officially sanctioned, Hutton has studiously boned up on all the proper rules from food storage and hygiene to waste disposal and health guidelines. If a town official did show up to check on her, she would easily pass inspection. Those enamoured with the Chez Faith lodgings can also book a stay as well, since they are part of the global Airbnb network.
A vegetarian from the age of 19 who started eating meat again in 2015, Hutton has spent years researching food, and expects within the year to complete coursework both to become a certified nutrition coach and a registered wholistic nutritionist.
The disconnect between nutrition and eating has long been an obsession for Hutton, who says that wholesome foods need not be tasteless. She laughs as she recalls the “simply awful” sugar-free muffins that she suffered through while a student at Trent University, a memory that daily inspires her to create dairy- and sugar-free desserts that “are yummy and satisfying, without sacrificing comfort or flavour.”
In a world where food sensitivities are skyrocketing, Hutton sees her home dining oasis as “part of raising awareness about the importance of nutrition,” noting that scientists now say that nutrition accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of our health. “I want to provide services that can guide and support people to make healthy choices. With the growing incidence of obesity and the alarming rise in chronic disease and allergies, we really need to start acting now. All of these conditions are due to lifestyle choices and are largely preventable,” she says.
Towards that end, the multi-talented Hutton offers cooking and meal planning classes. She met one of her newest clients during the annual December heritage house tour, when over 850 people came through her home.
While Hutton is prepared for all meals from breakfast to dinner, prospective diners must book in advance at www.chezfaith.com or by calling (613) 200-7440.
This article was first published in the February 2018 issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our February 2018 issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer (find a list of locations here) or read our digital version.