Friday Night Delights, chef Matthew Ravenscroft’s new plant-based supper series

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Sort-of Secret: Friday Night Delights, chef Matthew Ravenscroft’s new plant-based supper series

The sort-of secret: Friday Night Delights, a weekly, plant-based pickup dinner from chef Matt Ravenscroft
You may have heard of it if: You’ve seen his “vegetable reviews,” complete with much dancing and general merriment, on Instagram or TikTok
But you probably haven’t tried it because: It’s a one-man show with a once-weekly drop

Scroll to chef Matt Ravenscroft’s Instagram page and you might find him bench-pressing a parsnip, juggling a potato or dancing with a head of kale. In short, the man is seriously excited about plants—and since the pandemic, he’s built a personal brand around sharing that feeling. His newest offering is Friday Night Delights: a weekly pickup dinner of two vegan dishes and optional add-ons. Ravenscroft has a knack for unusual flavour combinations and teasing the very best out of his ingredients; expect the unexpected from him, even if you’re used to the relative haven of plant-based dishes that Toronto has to offer.

“For me, cooking with plants is about finding a thread that connects them. I like to look at a dish as a circle of flavours,” he says. “And there’s an exploratory lens to my food. I love when things taste new, even when they’re things we recognize.”

These slices of celeriac formed the base for a recent dish

 

They were roasted first

Ravenscroft used to lead the Drake Hotel’s catering team; just before the pandemic, he worked at Rosalinda, a vegan Mexican restaurant in the financial district (from which he’s been furloughed for the time being). Leaning into his passion for veggies, he started running “Tuesdays Kinda Suck”—a free, live Tuesday-night cookalong—as his first pandemic foray into building his own brand.

He’s since shifted to providing take-home meals with Friday Night Delights, with $5 from each sale going to a food justice charity, like the Parkdale Food Bank or True North Aid. And each week, he works with a local purveyor to offer an add-on item—past options include cookies from Mom Jeans Provisions and plant-based ice cream from Honey’s.

Beets give this cashew-based sauce its fuchsia hue

 

The finished dish

A recent dinner featured tender roasted celeriac with a fully fuschia beet-and-cashew sauce topped with almonds, dill and gooseberries. It was bright, earthy, crunchy and creamy all at once; a highlight tour of each component’s best qualities brought into perfect balance. “I knew I wanted to make a rich, beautiful beet sauce, since it’s such a stunning colour,” he says. “And then I thought, how can we quiet down the earthiness and add something complementary? I added gooseberries to make the brightness pop, since they’re a bit acidic, and used celeriac as the base, since it also has a natural brightness to it.”

The appetizer course was a twist on the classic wedge salad. Crisp leaves of iceberg were topped with cherry tomatoes, nutty, sweet sunchoke chips and a deeply savoury, creamy dressing of garlic, dill and pickled shallot—spiked with smoked malt vinegar from Acid League and a sprinkling of Walter caesar rim. “A wedge salad evokes sentimental emotions for me,” he says. “You don’t really see iceberg or romaine anymore, since we’ve opted for hardier greens—and while I love a hardy green, I still think there’s space for those high-water lettuces.” A wedge salad might not seem like the obvious vehicle for exciting plant-based cooking, but with punchy flourishes and an eye for balance, Ravenscroft managed to take it to new heights.

Ravenscroft puts the finishing touches on a wedge of iceberg lettuce

 

It turns out you really can win friends with salad

Ultimately, Ravenscroft’s cooking shows a deep appreciation for vegetables in their own right—not as stand-ins, afterthoughts, or platforms for other components, but as centre-stage headliners with all the nuance and sturdiness you’d expect of a main event. It’s food for people who love plants as much as it is for skeptics who aren’t sure they can make a complete meal out of them.

Looking forward, Ravenscroft wants to keep spreading his love of vegetables through take-home meals and the quirky, playful content he’s become known for—along with a bevy of recipes on his website. Menus and order forms for Friday Night Delights go live on his Instagram page on Sundays at 5 p.m.; pickup is around Dundas and Dovercourt on (when else?) Friday nights.