Last Friday an electrical fire ripped through St. John's Mallard Cottage, the 220-year-old heritage building where Newfoundland chef Todd Perrin was set to open his new restaurant, pushing back the launch by weeks and possibly months.
"The first thing I heard was a text from a friend saying, 'What's going on at Mallard? There's fire trucks everywhere,'" says Perrin, who was prepping for an event with chef Michael Smith in Fort McMurray, Alta. at the time.
According to Perrin, when Newfoundland Power employees turned on the building's brand-new electrical system, they heard an unusual noise and smoke started to seep from the building. Using multiple fire extinguishers they put out the blaze, but by the time firefighters arrived the smouldering fire had reignited.
"The bulk of the damage is from what the fire department had to do to keep the cottage from burning down," says Perrin, who posted a photo on social media showing long gashes in the wide wooden floorboards of the original cottage, where only weeks earlier he had hosted a preview dinner. "It was a bit of kick in the guts to go down there today. But the whole project has been a gamble so I guess this is just part of it."
As contractors and insurance adjusters assess the situation, Perrin is waiting to find out when the re-renovated Mallard Cottage can open. He's missed most of the island's peak tourist season, and insurance doesn't reimburse time closed for a restaurant that hasn't opened yet. "Nobody got hurt and it didn't burn down, so you have to look at the positives, right? And it just adds to the story," says Perrin.