Canada

Controversial chef Jason Mclelland lands new job at Working Title Kitchen in Sandy Hill

"After a personally difficult year, and some hard lessons learned, I could not be happier to lead the culinary team."

Pastry chef Christophe Measson, left, and head chef Jason Mclelland are to lead the new culinary team at Working Title Kitchen in Sandy Hill.

Controversial chef Jason Mclelland, who was evicted from his Mechanicsville restaurant Grunt in December, has been hired as part of the culinary team at Working Title Kitchen in Sandy Hill.

Mclelland will be culinary chef at the business, which combines a bakery and restaurant at allsaints event space, formerly a church on Laurier Avenue East. Christophe Measson, formerly the executive pastry chef at the Art Gallery of Ontario and a baking and pastry professor at George Brown College, will be the business’s pastry chef.

Measson, a native of France, has more than 30 years of experience in the food industry and Mclelland will report to him, says Leanne Moussa, managing partner of allsaints.

“They’re both exceptional,” says Moussa. “You can see they work very smoothly together.”

Mclelland opened Grunt in the spring of 2019, immediately winning over food lovers and Mechanicsville residents with affordable food that nonetheless reflected the culinary savvy the Scottish-born chef acquired after cooking at celebrated restaurants in Europe and Australia.

But six months ago, landlord Angela Ienzi boarded up Grunt and changed its locks, contending she was owed about $38,000. Other businesses and former Grunt employees came forward to this newspaper, asserting they too were owed money. Grunt fought its eviction in court but abandoned its challenge in January.

Jason Mclelland sits outside the Grunt restaurant in December 2020.
Jason Mclelland sits outside the Grunt restaurant in December 2020. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

“With Grunt, I set out to create something special that contributed to the community,” Mclelland said in a statement. “After a personally difficult year, and some hard lessons learned, I could not be happier to lead the culinary team at Working Title Kitchen and allsaints event space. It is a place that shares my values around food, community and giving back.

“I feel I have something special to offer in Sandy Hill, and I hope that some of my former customers and friends come to see what we’re up to.”

Moussa said she had no concerns about Mclelland despite what happened at Grunt. “Business ownership is a very, very difficult thing,” she said. “I have a lot of empathy for how difficult that is to do.

“Jason’s an exceptional chef. I feel very comfortable about that. And he really does care about the community. Those are two things we value here for sure.”

Robin Duetta, community development specialist at Carefor Health and Community Services and a producer of many culinary events over the years, said he supported Mclelland’s return to Ottawa’s restaurant scene. 

 “Jason is not the first restaurateur to fail, and we need to stop looking at the lives of our restaurant community through such a critical lens,” said Duetta.

Noting that Mclelland participated in fundraising events for Carefor, the Shepherds of Good Hope and other causes, Duetta said of him: “He’s earned his spot among the many chefs of this great city. I’m proud to call him a friend and wish him well in his new job.”

phum@postmedia.com

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