Mayssam Samaha may be best known for her food and travel blog, but the passionate foodie has another project making waves in Montreal: Saisons, a pop-up dinner series founded in partnership with chemist-turned-baker Janice Lawandi. Since 2015, Samaha and Lawandi have enlisted Montreal chefs to host the meals, crafting multi-course menus inspired by Quebec’s distinctive seasonal terroir.
A special dinner calls for special circumstances, and each quarterly Saisons occasion is mysterious and elevated. Samaha and Lawandi reveal their featured chefs online, but the rest of the equation is anyone’s guess. The 20 people who secure a ticket are not told the location of their meal until shortly before it occurs—past events have taken patrons to Marché Jean-Talon, a rooftop terrace, a flower shop, the Biosphere, and a church. The only clue as to what the meal will entail is contained in an email, sent a few days beforehand, describing the dishes’ flavour profiles so that guests may select a suitable wine to bring with them.
“It’s for food lovers, people who are adventurous about their food, who want to be surprised, and open to trying new things.”
Once seated, camaraderie flourishes and wines are shared. Diners, situated in close proximity to where the food is prepared, may chat with chefs about how and why they do the things they do. Chefs, who in the past have included Marina De Figueiredo of Restaurant Candide and pastry master Patrice Demers, are given a carte blanche to cook whatever they like. The only condition, Samaha explains, “Is that it’s seasonal and local.”
Its spontaneity, intimacy, and exclusivity has made Saisons a hot ticket. “It’s for food lovers, people who are adventurous about their food, who want to be surprised, and open to trying new things,” says Samaha. “We keep selling out, sometimes in minutes.” Yet Samaha is disinclined to increase the size or frequency of her pop-up meals. “I want to keep that intimacy. It’s like creating a chef’s table for every season.”
But there are some new initiatives for Saisons on the horizon. As of this year, Saisons features cooking classes as well. “It’s something I added because I enjoy visiting these food artisans, but they’re not always capable of doing something like a dinner,” says Samaha. Students are taught lessons that result in goods and knowledge to take home and are structured to be informal. “All you have to do is show up ready to roll up your sleeves and eat a little something along the way.”
Never miss a story. Sign up for NUVO’s weekly newsletter, here.