Blackie’s NEXT move

Photographs by Ashley Fraser and Bruno Schlumberger

Chef Michael Blackie (Photo: Bruno Schlumberger)

Ottawa chef Michael Blackie, who left the National Arts Centre last November, has found work as a partner in a Stittsville-based banquet hall/restaurant/catering business.

Blackie, 47, is a partner in a new venture that is to be called NEXT after it rebrands Sixty Four Hundred Celebration Centre on Hazeldean Road in Stittsville in about April.

Blackie began work this week as partner, co-founder, executive chef and general manager.

His partner is Tim Snelling, principal behind Palladium Insurance and Celebration Centre.

Blackie’s future remained something of a mystery when he suddenly left the NAC after serving as its executive chef three years. Former NAC sous-chef John Morris has stepped in to fill his shoes, although Blackie’s official replacement has not yet been named.

Previously, Blackie was the founding chef at Brookstreet when the Kanata boutique hotel and its acclaimed restaurant, Perspectives, opened in June 2003.

Blackie, who lives in Kanata with his family, says his partner and friend, Snelling, has operated the 11,000-square-foot Celebration Centre for about two-and-a-half years. The idea is to rebrand Celebration under the NEXT banner to offer a broad range of banquet, wedding, catering and takeout services.

“Over the next two months we’re going to retrofit one of the rooms and convert it to a dining room,” Blackie says.

“It’s going to be a restaurant, called NEXT, offering casual dining, catering, meeting space for events with up to 180 people plus 70 people downstairs, and takeout. It’s now doing weddings and catering.”

Although his menu isn’t completely nailed down, Blackie says his restaurant will fill a niche in the booming west-end Ottawa communities of Kanata and Stittsville. “For a lot of people, Stittsville and Kanata have grown so much in the last few years, but we feel there are limited choices.

“I feel it’s time to have a good facility in that part of the city. I will not be doing the kind of food I did at Le Café at the NAC, or Perspectives at Brookstreet. I want something extremely accessible with small sharing plates. The menu will be spread across a broad spectrum of what I showcase, but it will be more casual with prices starting in the range of $4 for appetizers to $26 to $28 for mains.

“For me, being in that part of the city is a no-brainer, to bring added value to the community.”

The chef says his culinary fans can expect his signature General Blackie Chicken — his riff on General Tso’s Chicken (a deep-fried dish served in North American Chinese restaurants). “I’ll be rotating the menu,” he adds.

“”There’s obviously going to be an Asian influence, and European influence, whether it’s tataki, sashimi, and good seasonal, hearty food whether it’s Blackie’s rum and Coke pork belly, or carpaccio or steak tartare.”

In the official NAC press statement last November, Blackie indicated he planned to develop his brand MB Cuisine, as well as television opportunities. NEXT will not feature the MB Cuisine brand, per se, which Blackie plans to continue as his own label. As for TV shows in the works, Blackie said proposals have been submitted “but there’s nothing concrete yet.

“Things with TV are a little slow and it takes time.”

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