Le Petit Chef (Richmond Hill)

When visual artists Antoon Verbeeck and Filip Sterckx got together to create animation projects in 2011, little did they know they would develop Le Petit Chef, a 3D projection dining experience that features a little non-speaking clumsy chef that finds himself facing hairy situations while creating dishes for his diners. If the Three Stooges were two inches tall and had any culinary talent, they might have become petit chefs as well.

In 2015, the duo developed Le Petit Chef as part of their Belgium company Skullmapping and created a video to showcase to potential clients. Posted on YouTube, the video was picked up by mainstream viewers and went viral. Since then, Le Petit Chef has stumbled its way onto tables worldwide in over 50 countries and even travels the world with Celebrity Cruises. 

The little guy finally made its way into Canada at Jokers Theatre and Comedy Club in Richmond Hill, where an intimate room hosts the dinner with two to three seating daily. At $129.99 (plus taxes and gratuities) for a 5-course meal, it’s probably not something you’ll visit regularly. Still, it is an interesting technology to experience and something you can bring children to as well – note, they suggest children be 6 or older and offer a ‘Junior Chef’ menu ($64.99) for those 10 and under. 

Without giving too much away, you enter the space and tables are already set with plates precisely placed for the projection. In case you fidget with the plate, when the animation begins, the video shows you where to move your plate back to. Before each course, a ~3-minute video is shown where Le Petit Chef creates a dish in a slapstick manner and when the projection stops your dish is presented in real life.

Despite having to serve over 30 people in short succession, the dishes were prepared well. The bouillabaisse arrives hot and the tomato saffron broth great to the last spoonful, even though it looked a little watery. Studded with a piece of fish, calamari, shrimps, and a mussel, the squid stood in for the octopus featured in the video, so while not necessarily accurate was close enough. 

It would be nice if Jokers creates something closer to the dish just seen in the video. The little chef throws lettuce leaves onto his caprese salad di bufala, but our plate is leafless, the bulb of fresh buffalo mozzarella simply adorned with wedges of tomato and a basil leaf. Not exactly screaming of a fulsome salad. 

Similarly, Le Petit Chef roasts an entire chicken for the third course, but when the smoked chicken and wild mushroom risotto was served it was merely a mound of rice with miniscule mushrooms to boot. Jokers could easily smoke a handful of chicken breasts and include one or two slices on top of the truffle-laced risotto to really enhance the experience. 

After the first three courses, I was a little worried: the portions were really small, I was already thinking of where we could go afterwards. I recommend Jokers add some easy and inexpensive ingredients to the dishes to make them look a bit more substantial: spinach or arugula for the salad, a piece of toasted baguette with the bouillabaisse, and smoked chicken slices for the risotto. 

Luckily, the filet mignon au poivre was much larger, the palm-sized steak cooked to the requested medium rare and covered with a lovely peppercorn sauce. The main also includes a host of sides with the roasted potato and parsnip purée being a little more substantial. 

Our French meal ended with a sizeable crème brûlée that was superbly done with a silky vanilla custard, a thin sugar crust that easily cracked on impact, and some fresh berries to create a colourful ending. In the end, we all left satisfied but not stuffed.

Indeed, the videos are a little cheesy, but the adults in the room laughed and enjoyed the experience as much as the younger guests. I liked the sense of whimsy created and was even disappointed when Le Petit Chef didn’t make his way back to say goodbye in the wrap-up video. I guess hospitality isn’t the strongest amongst the French. 

It would have also been nice to give something to the children to take home after the meal. Even a small token like a sticker decal would work wonders at enhancing the user experience and could also create word-of-mouth advertising if they’re stuck somewhere prominent. 

With the option of a 6pm or 8pm seating, we opted for an earlier dinner. It worked out well as we were invited to stay for the live-comedy show that was starting in an hour and could skip the normal $25 cover charge – not sure how long this perk will last. The entertainment line-up changes depending on the day, Jokers also features magicians, hypnotists, and live-band karaoke during the week. 

As a plus, for those who are still hungry, you can order more food from Jokers normal menu and the dishes look huge. Just look at the size of my Spanish coffee!

All in all, not a bad way to spend $200 and five hours on a Saturday night. It was a night full of laughs – first with a cartoon chef and afterwards through much racier jokes from local comedians. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 115 York Boulevard

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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