Meet Jen Grant — an academic with a PhD, founding partner of DaiLo restaurant and LoPan cocktail lounge, wife and mom of 4, and co-chair of this year’s Power Ball fundraising gala. I had the opportunity to meet with Jen and learned how she got into the restaurant business, of her love for contemporary art, and what we can expect from this year’s Power Ball.
Jen lived in London, England with her husband while earning her PhD, and the two would go out to eat almost every night. At that time, sustainable sourcing, organic food, and modern asian were the trends, as was going out for cocktails. They missed this lifestyle when they returned to Canada and wanted to recreate that vibe in their Toronto hometown. Jen and her husband partnered with chef Nick Liu (Jen had admired him since his time as the executive chef at Niagara Street Café) and sommelier Anton Potvin to create Asian brasserie DaiLo, along with a cocktail lounge situated above the restaurant called LoPan. It was important for the team to have both a bar and a restaurant together so that patrons didn’t have to change locations on their evening out. Jen didn’t have any prior experience in the restaurant business but knew exactly what she wanted, and found the perfect partners to oversee the kitchen (Nick) and the front-of-house (Anton), whom she speaks very highly of. Jen oversaw the design that was done by Solid Build & Design with a vision of creating a fun, romantic and welcoming atmosphere that could serve for a date night out as equally as it could for a family-style destination. The restaurant has been popular since its opening in 2014 and has since opened a smaller, second location within Assembly Chef’s Hall, a high-end food court in downtown Toronto.
Accompanying Jen’s passion for good food and design is her love of contemporary art, so she was thrilled when a friend of hers with whom she worked on another committee asked if she would be interested in co-chairing the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery’s Power Ball. The Power Ball is an annual fundraiser that supports the Power Plant, thus allowing contemporary art to thrive in Canada. It’s also notorious for being Toronto’s art party of the year, and this year marks its 20th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, the Power Ball gala’s theme is Carousal, and its art installations will evoke a carnivalesque atmosphere that aims to delight all the senses. The Power Ball is Jen’s favourite party of the year, and this year as co-chair (alongside fellow co-chairs Abby Minuk, Gareth Brown-Jowett, and Honourary Chair Nancy McCain) she can take advantage of directly contributing to the festivities. In her role as co-chair, Jen is responsible for fundraising, sponsor recruiting, selling tickets, and generating ideas for the party. Jen is looking forward to seeing Bompas & Parr’s activation for the pre-party — these artists do amazing things with food and taste and smell and their participation is highly anticipated. Speaking of food… DaiLo will be catering the main event!
What Jen loves most about the Power Ball is that it’s accessible — you won’t feel out of place if you don’t know anything about contemporary art. I can relate to how Jen feels about not having the vocabulary to communicate what she likes about contemporary art, I also struggle with that, and the party is a great place to just enjoy art for art’s sake. You can watch from the sidelines and be a voyeur or really immerse yourself in the experience. Jen’s attendance at past Power Balls, as well as joining the planning committee, has given her more confidence to talk about art. Power Ball XX: Carousal, presented by Max Mara, will take place on Thursday, May 31st at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and tickets can be purchased here.
It’s been a pleasure getting to know Jen, I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know her, too! Next time you’re heading out for dinner and cocktails, consider DaiLo and LoPan, and if you’re planning on attending the Power Ball, look out for Jen and say hello!
Want more? Here’s what #WeWantToKnow about Jen:
I can’t start my morning without…a huge cup of tea…usually followed by an equally large cup of coffee.
I have a weakness for…too many things to list; planning my next trip, freshly baked goods, an indulgent boozy lunch with friends, an empty beach, quiet, a new book, the chaos of weekends with my kids…
Most people don’t know that I’m…not very mysterious…
Currently reading… Tina Brown’s diaries from her time as Editor of Vanity Fair but I have a huge stack of fiction beside my bed.
An important lesson I learned…always be open to learning, no one knows everything and if you think you do, you’re on the wrong track.
I want… time to slow down.
Thanks Jen, for participating in #WeWantToKnow!