I moved to Ottawa more than 11 years ago from a small town. While Ottawans like to think of Ottawa as being similar to a small town, to me it was a big and impersonal city where I was just another face in the crowd. It was a difficult adjustment, and it took many years for me to feel like Ottawa was my home. The girl who worked at the little bagel shop I used to frequent back home (this was in my pre-gan days) would see my car coming down the street, and start my order. It was always ready by the time I walked into the cafe. Now that’s customer service!
Back to Ottawa, I think it has helped to be part of a subculture. There are a limited number of businesses catering specifically to vegetarians and vegans, but it also presents the opportunity to develop relationships with many of the business owners and staff of the places which I patronize. Partly as a result of my work with the NCVA I am on a first name basis with many of the owners of veg-oriented business in Ottawa, which is a great feeling. It helps me to feel good about many of my consumer choices, because I know where my money is going; it’s often supporting the very community of businesses and people who support me as a vegan.
While it’s very difficult to follow the money trail for every purchase we make, I do try to support companies and organizations that are good to their workers, make an effort to operate and source ethically, and which give back to the community. I want to give a shout out to one in particular which is supportive of the veg community, and without their support, we may not have been able to put on two Veg Fests.
For many Ottawa residents—vegetarian or otherwise—their first encounter with plant-based cuisine occurs at The Table Vegetarian Restaurant. In fact, The Table serves some 400 people each and every day! But what diners and the public may not know is that not only is The Table a great place to eat, but its owner, Simon Saab, is an outstanding corporate citizen.
“From day one, my philosophy has been to give back to the community that we operate within. Sponsoring is a way of letting the people who come in, who enjoy the restaurant and the food we serve, know that I really appreciate their support of my business,” Simon says. “I do believe that if you give, you receive so much back.”
The Table is the NCVA’s biggest corporate supporter, including as the title sponsor for both Ottawa Veg Fests. When the NCVA first considered holding a festival, Simon was the first business owner to sign on. It’s largely thanks to The Table’s sponsorship that Veg Fest has succeeded, and remains a free event.
The Table has also sponsored other local events and publications, including the SimplyRaw festival. Simon says from a business point of view, sponsoring events like Veg Fest is a good way of keeping the restaurant’s name recognition up. “And from a personal standpoint, I really enjoy what I do.”
Simon’s family has a long history in the restaurant business, and he’s been a part of the industry for some 35 years. Ten years ago he decided to combine his interest in restaurants with his interest in a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
“Vegetarian and organic have always been personal interests of mine, for more than 30 years. Since I opened the restaurant my commitment to the veg lifestyle has been very strong,” he says. Indeed, everything served at the restaurant’s buffet-style set up is vegetarian, and most selections are vegan. Some choices are raw, and/or gluten free. In the past few years the restaurant has focused even more on purchasing produce from local farmers.
“People are so much more aware of illnesses and what to do and eat to help themselves, a lot more than they were 15 or 20 years ago,” Simon says.
He says the recent addition of several new vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the Ottawa area has been complementary to his own business, and shows the high level of demand for plant-based alternatives in Ottawa.
The Table is one of the veterans: on July 24, it celebrated 10 years in business.
The NCVA is grateful to all of the businesses that have supported us, from sponsoring Veg Fest, to offering our members discounts, to buying advertising in Capital Veg News, to making product donations, and more. Without their support it would be an uphill battle!
The Table Vegetarian Restaurant
230 Wellington Street West, Ottawa