Michael Lewin leans on the heavily varnished wood counter of the new Raging Spoon Cafe. He looks around at the freshly painted white walls and into the shiny stainless steel kitchen that feed the Raging Spoon Catering Company.
They are still settling in, but Lewin, the business manager at Raging Spoon, which hires and trains people who have mental health as well as addiction and poverty struggles, said this is a great space for their operations.
Raging Spoon Catering Company, established in 1997, offers good food, at a fair price and is an operation of Working for Change, an organization that advocates for employment opportunities for psychiatric survivors and emphasizes the importance of work in the lives of people who have been marginalized by poverty and mental health issues. Raging Spoon Cafe currently has eight employees.
Additionally, it makes sense they set up shop in Parkdale where there are food networks, co-ops and people working toward better food security, he said.
“Food is a lot more than survival,” Lewin said. “It even has moral implications with food costs – who gets to eat what and who doesn’t. It is an art and it is a science.”
Lewin, who has been with Raging Spoon for the past eight years and a chef for 15, said he sees it every day: the people who work there feel more stable.
“People just feel better when they are working,” Lewin said. “They aren’t staying at home taking medication and doing nothing, getting frustrated and probably in crisis.”
But, apart from helping to give opportunity to survivors who want to work as a chef or in the catering industry, Lewin said, they also make really great food.
“We also try to create a competitive menu,” he said. “Because no matter how nice and well intended our social mandate is, it wouldn’t work if no one is buying anything.”
Although the catering operations have traditionally done well, the cafe wasn’t as successful. But Lewin said he hopes the new, bright space with a large window looking onto Queen Street will draw more people in as they pass by.
“We will probably do over-the-counter foods and maybe really great homemade burgers,” Lewin said. Comfort foods made from scratch, sandwiches and soups will also likely be offered.
“We would like to serve the community something good that it doesn’t already have,” he said.
Raging Spoon was located at 761 Queen St. W. in a former church that was once home to a variety of non-profit and social service organizations. But when that building was sold to a developer, Raging Spoon had to find a new location.
When they started to look around they found a vacant space at 1658 Queen St. W., in the heart of Parkdale. Their catering operations are now up and running in the new locations and Lewin said they aim to have the cafe open in the fall.
Working for Change’s office is just down the street at 1499 Queen St. W. It also operates The Out of This World Cafe at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Parkdale Green Thumb and Voices from the Street, a speakers bureau comprised of individuals who have had direct experience with homelessness, poverty and/or mental health issues.