We are Eclectic Café & Catering, located in lovely downtown Orillia at 39 Mississaga Street west.
At Eclectic, we believe that using high quality local ingredients picked at their freshest make for the best tasting dishes. We believe in supporting the amazing Orillia area local farmers who produce these delicious ingredients. It's about building relationships and celebrating locally grown and produced goods. Supporting Orillia area local farmers and producers allow us the opportunity to know where our food comes from, it invests local money back into the community, and has shown to reduce our environmental impact. We are proud to be an Orillia restaurant & caterer who supports hard working & talented local farmers.
We believe in serving dishes packed with flavour. Dishes created with the freshest ingredients from Orillia area farmers such as; The Roost Farm, the 50 Acre Garden, Quaker Oaks Farm, & Lavender Hills' Farm to name a few.* Fresh ingredients just taste better. Buying local matters. Supporting local farmers & food producers makes sense for our community. We cook with the growing seasons & change up our menu about 6 times a year.
We are also a café with a heart, giving back to our community is a core value.*
Oprah Winfrey summed it up best when she said "Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you". We couldn't agree more and that's where our story begins.
Enrolling at Georgian College in the Culinary Arts program at the age of 30, Melanie Robinson aka Chef Mel, decided it was time for a career change. So began Melanie's passionate pursuit of food & the art of cooking. With passion & talent driving her, Melanie immersed herself into the culinary world at every opportunity that presented itself. Melanie twice represented Georgian College in the Callebaut Chocolate Competition*. Melanie also found culinary opportunities outside of the classroom, becoming the Junior President of the Muskoka Chefs Association. While excelling at school, Melanie cut her culinary chops working for Chef Ian Thompson at Era 67.
In 2012 Melanie's culinary education continued when she won a two week opportunity with the Canadian Culinary Federation to work at several exceptional restaurants in Kelowna, British Columbia. Located in the Okanagan Valley, Kelowna is a culinary hub for fresh, local ingredients & it is a hotbed of the farm to table concept. For many reasons, Kelowna is the impetus for Melanie's culinary career & her local food matters mantra.
For those familiar with the culinary scene, exposure to different cuisines & guidance from a variety of talented chefs is a building block for success. With this in mind Melanie moved to Horseshoe Resort to learn under the tutelage of Chef Dylan Tulloch.
Never one to shy away from new adventures, Melanie made the choice to apply for a spot on the Food Network's Chopped Canada in the summer of 2015. After a series of phone interviews with the shows production team, Melanie found out that she made the cut & was going to be in an episode! For those of you who haven't seen the episode, season 3, episode 9 (Dueling over Devilled Eggs) go watch it now, particularly if you don't know how she did. Spoiler alert coming...
Melanie used her ability to think quickly, her knowledge of flavours, and her newly acquired culinary skills to battle 3 other chefs through 3 rounds of culinary chaos. After 13 hours of filming, cooking , and waiting, Melanie found out that Canadian celebrity chef judges Lynn Crawford, John Higgins, & Antonio Park had selected her as Chopped Champion! It was an amazing experience for the new chef, but one that had to be kept under wraps for 8 months. Melanie had to sign a non disclosure agreement to keep the results of the completion under wraps until it finally aired on March 5, 2016!
A big thank you to chef Dylan & the team at Horseshoe Valley for throwing a big viewing party in the Crazy Horse Sports Bar & Grill. It was a packed house & friends & family were not disappointed. For her trouble, Melanie took home the $10,000 prize and the title of Chopped Champion! Unfortunately, the production company that produced the show no longer makes episodes because we would have loved to see Melanie battle with other episode champions in a culinary battle for supremacy. For those of you who are fans of the show, email the Food Network Canada and let's get a Champions Tournament in the works!*
Those of you who have known Melanie for a while, you may remember her from the Orillia Fair Grounds Farmers' Market but we weren't known as Eclectic Café quite yet. Starting out as Melanie Robinson Catering (MRC) in 2017, the Farmer's' Market offered Melanie a chance to make her own style of food while working & making relationships with Orillia area farmers. Farmers Markets truly offer entrepreneurs a low risk option to start their business, find out what makes them successful, & build a following. For those of you who love our lemon blueberry scones, it all started right here.*
As MRC gained a following from the Fair Grounds Farmers Market, Melanie also became known for catering & her chef guided dinners in the homes of those looking for an entertaining evening of learning & participating in creating delicious dinners. Catering is still something that we genuinely enjoy to this day.*
In the fall of 2017 Melanie was approached by Mary & Lorne VanSinclair, the owners of Carousel Collectables in downtown Orillia (now home to the Common Stove). Mary & Lorne, 2 of the nicest people in this world, fell in love with Melanie's food at the Fairgrounds Market. Mary & Lorne had recently added a small café at the back of their amazing space & approached Melanie to take it over. After much thought Melanie decided to go for it & in December 2017 the Eclectic Café was born. Why Eclectic Café you ask? Well the name just kinda fell into place. Fresh, local food served in the back of a cool collectable memorabilia store with mix & match tables, chairs, plates, & a kitchen full random equipment. The name just seemed right. Carousel was our home until December 2018 when Mary & Lorne decided to retire after years of being a truly unique staple in downtown Orillia. We can never thank Mary & Lorne enough for the opportunity and their unwavering love & support. Life moves fast & so began the search for a new home for Eclectic Café. Please note the amazing Eclectic core pictured in the Carousel kitchen back in the day (Christine, Melanie, & Alana).
Following your passion to create a business you love & believe in is no easy task. It's one part doing what you know & love and 10 steps of new adventure and learning on the fly. Location, building size, lease terms, construction budget, contractors, kitchen equipment, décor, & fixtures are just a few of the things that need to be considered. After searching we came across the space most famously known as what used to be Fred's Meat Market. In this space, we found a previous connection to somewhere we used to shop & pretty much ready to go walk-in fridge & freezer.
The lease was signed and so began the more than & rewarding experience of fairly major construction. Oh wait, I failed to mention surprises, lots and lots of surprises. What we had hoped to be a spring time opening became a summer opening. On June 27, 2019 Eclectic Café opened its doors & the rest as they say is history.
So we survived construction & the café opened in June 2019. Things were going along quite nicely until a pandemic slammed into all of our lives. We really don't want to talk about COVID but we shall say this, thank you Orillia. We couldn't have gotten through this without the help of our amazing customers so from the bottom of our hearts thank you. We changed, we adapted, and we overcame many hurdles but it all would have been for not if it wasn't for our loyal fans who were there for us. We also can't forget our amazing Eclectic team, but more on them later.
If one thing became clear during the pandemic, it was that we needed to grow. Creating new lines of revenue, along with our heart felt desire to get back to our catering roots, our little kitchen was getting crowded & we needed more room to work. Most of you already know this but over there to the right, smiling away, is Alana Bell. Alana has been along for the ride since the Carousel days & the amount of work & care she has put into our little café is nothing short of a miracle. So when we needed to grow, it was a no brainer, without hesitation Alana partnered in for the long haul. We do have a new space coming, right next door to the café, and it's coming along......slowly. It's kind of like the movie Ground Hog's Day but it's Construction Day. Some things never change. Our new space will hopefully be open by the time it's t-shirt weather & when flowers are blooming. The space will be dedicated to catering, takeout pickup, a pastry counter & coffee service, and a selection of Eclectic prepared foods for you to enjoy at home. Stay tuned.
This dish is our spin on Chicken Marbella or as we call it in the café, Half Past Hen. We highly recommend you try this as it is an instant favorite around the café.
Just a quick reminder as well about our super exciting Valentine's day dinner menu. We are now taking reservations for Saturday February 11th (5:30-8pm). Have a look at our prix fixe menu, it's fantastic!
Reservations @ 705-330-0101