Friday 20 February 2015

Exclusive: Legendary Sheldon Kagan retiring after 50 years in the business

A legend on the local entertainment scene is calling it a career.  Sheldon Kagan told me today that after an extraordinary 50 years of working on every angle related to entertainment, concert production, trade shows, party planning and special events that the time has come to step back.

“I am retiring,” Kagan said. “It is official. Today is my actual 50th anniversary in the business  I felt that this was the right time to do it.”

The head of Sheldon Kagan International has been the driving force behind a broad spectrum of successful projects - from concerts, singles parties and weddings, to exhibitions for the bridal, family, boomer and business-to-business markets. He actually got into the business when he was just 14 years old as a deejay, calling himself Shelly the K and his Mobile Discotheque. His first gig was at a high school dance and he was paid $25 for his services.

Kagan produced his first major concert in 1969. Only 19 at the time, he booked jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Gene Krupa to play at the Place des Arts. Tickets were $3.50 and $6.50 and the show sold out.  Fast forward to December 2, 2011 when he brought recording superstar Dionne Warwick to the same venue, where seats ranged from $80 to $130 each.

As an impresario, Kagan has produced some 65 shows  at the Place des Arts and brought in such artists as Kenny Loggins, Ravi Shankar, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Bill Withers, and Billy Preston. In recent months he has presented The Beatles Experience, Abba Memories, LOL Montreal Comedy Night, the International Tenors and celebrity impersonators the Edwards Twins. He also ran numerous shows a year without charge for charitable organizations. 

One of Kagan’s most branded events is the Salon de la Mariée, an annual exhibition that now attracts over 5,000 brides, grooms and family members to the Palais des Congrès. There will soon be a “for sale” sign for this event. “It should continue,” he said, “but I will be very careful whom I entrust this with. It is my baby!”

A typical Kagan trade show.
Other trade shows he has produced included the Salons des Boomers Plus, Salon Affaires de Montréal and Le Salon de la Famille.

Kagan actually met his wife Linda while hosting the Royal Bank Christmas party at the Windsor Hotel.  

Kagan  boasts a personal collection of 20,000 albums and 45 rpm's. In addition, his Dorval-based company owns a library of 22,000 songs on CDs feeding himself, three mobile deejays, as well as his seven top 40 bands and strolling, classical and jazz musicians.  

Sheldon Kagan International has been organizing in excess of 1,100 parties a year. About 55 percent were corporate functions. The rest consisted of weddings, private functions, and bar/bat mitzvahs.  Upon request, he could often be found at the deejay table himself. “That’s my first love,” he says. “Sometimes I just want to go back to my roots.”

Good luck Sheldon. Something tells you will have a lot of offers from people to become a special advisor.  He was a guest on Global TV's Focus Montreal with Jamie Orchard.

P.F. Chang's gets into the Chinese New Year spirit

As  P.F. Chang’s China Bistro approaches the two year mark since opening its first locale in Montreal, everything is running smoothly at the Rue des Jockeys (Decarie) and Carrefour Laval locations as well as its Canadian flagship in Toronto.

An international brand that features a unique dining experience within an elegant, contemporary and family-friendly setting,  each  of the more than 200 P.F. Chang's restaurants across the globe is a culinary journey inspired by the cuisine of the five regions of China, from Mongolia and Sichuan, to Beijing, Shanghai and Hunan. 

P.F. Chang's menu items are cooked-to-order in traditional Chinese woks, using only the freshest ingredients delivered every day. The restaurant understands the importance of responding to consumer tastes and preferences and offers a wide range of vegetarian options and is also well known for its gluten-free menu offering.
Emile Haykal

My family enjoyed another great meal (call it an “experience”) recently  at Rue des Jockeys, where operating partner Emile Haykal and his team aim to please. Just the other day we were at Carrefour Laval and we could not resist the temptation of checking that location out, having not been there since its grand opening. The operating partner here is Elie Sucar. You cannot enter the restaurant through the mall. Either drive your car around to the parking lot facing Highway 440 or via the mall walk through a short outdoor corridor between The Bay and Crate and Barrel, hang a left and look for the signature entry.

While Rue des Jockeys is two floors with high ceilings, this is smaller more intimate spot. They have one room where the tables are  surrounded by walls featuring  and endless array of bottles of wine. 

"We have 18 `white wines and 21 red,"  said Sucar. "We wanted to create a warm and inviting environment and at the same time break up the 'rectangular'  look of the restaurant. The two wine coolers become a focal point and serves as a dining room divider as well, thus creating two smaller, and more intimate dining spaces. Naturally, the beauty of the cellars also help with the up-sell."

Elie Sucar
It was a Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when we arrived and most of the tables were free. Within a half hour the place was hopping with regulars (some at the trendy bar watching sports), people who just finished shopping and some Americans who were staying at the Sheraton Hotel on the grounds of Carrefour Laval.

Kassandra Bellemare was the manager on duty. Our server told us she and most of her colleagues have been here since the locale opened almost two years ago and they have all become like family.
What’s new at P.F. Chang’s?  Last fall they added some menu items from their summer LTO (limited time only specials). There are more options for Chang’s For Two, a specifically curated menu made for sharing at a fixed price.  Besides the signature chicken lettuce wraps, hand-made dumplings, vegetable spring rolls, Mongolian beef and crispy honey chicken, Korean BBQ chicken, seared ahi with wasabi guacamole and pad thai are also part of the package. More recently quinoa was introduced as a substitute for rice.   
A Chinese New Year menu goes until March 15, with two new dishes (beef with rice noodles & dessert wontons) and a BIG BUDDHA CAESAR (the Chang’s Caesar with a JUMBO Shrimp). They are also running a promotion with Mott’s Calmato glasses when you order either of the Caesars.  Also check out their Pan Menus for takeout for events and meetings. Each dish serves five to eight people.

 I particularly love the way the leftovers are prepared. The server carefully slides each dish into a different small carton, marks what they are and then presents you with a neatly packed P.F. Chang's bag. Nothing goes to waste here.

The menu is accessible at For more information call 514-731-2020 (Decarie) or  (450) 687-8000 (Laval). Reservations are strongly recommended on the weekends.

Monday 16 February 2015

This just in: St. Patrick's Day Parade to get special coverage on Bell Local TV

For those people who do not attend the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, the only way to really get a taste of it is to watch local television or newspaper reports. It has been years since we have been able to see extensive TV coverage and that was on cable.

Louis Douville
Louis Douville, vice-president and general manager of CTV Montreal, has confirmed to  me that  subscribers of Bell's Fibe TV will be able to see a complete play by play of the March 22, 2015 parade about 10 to 14 days after it takes place.

Bell Local will produce a show called simply St. Patrick, bringing viewers behind the scenes of event preparation and of course the parade itself. "We have looked at ways of broadcasting it live on CTV Montreal," said Douville, "but it really was not possible. As soon as Bell Local was created, we knew we had the way to make it happen - albeit not live."
A scene from last year's parade.

The United Irish Societies of Montreal will take charge of all preparation, production and provide the hosts.

Since going on the air  last June, Bell Local has brought us a nice array of programs available on channels 217 and 1217. Only subscribers of Fibe TV can access them on demand, meaning you can tune in whenever you wish to the likes of Give Back Montreal,
What's Up Montreal? and Urban Race, Street Signs, Couch Talk and much more