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How Les Cuisines Solidaires is turning ovens back on during the pandemic

TWhen the COVID-19 shutdown mandate hit Quebec restaurants, Jean-François Archambault, General Director and founder of La Tablée des Chefs, started to receive calls from chefs and operators hoping to donate their remaining ingredients to the organization. As the shutdown progressed community shelters were struggling. Many of their volunteers went into isolation, leaving them with a growing, vulnerable population without food or the ability to access food.

To combat these mounting issues, Archambault worked quickly to find a solution and in less than a week launched Les Cuisines Solidaires. Les Cuisines Solidaires is a project made up of a web of generous partners who have come together to turn the ovens back on at restaurant kitchens across the province and supply food banks with ready-to-go meals.

Restaurants and Les Cuisines Solidaires work together to determine a feasible timeline for meal delivery. Depending on the kitchen’s capacity, culinary teams may cook up to 80,000 dishes for each delivery. Restaurants are compensated $1 for each meal they make and chefs are able to leverage ingredients donated from agriculture associations, brands and Les Cuisines Solidaires biggest distributor partner, Gordon Foodservice (GFS).

From the kitchen, the meals will be transported to local, community food banks across Quebec, where volunteers are stepping up to help deliver the food, a task that allows them to support and provides them with the safety of social distancing.

The first round of dishes includes shepherds pie and vegetarian chili and are scheduled to be created and distributed the week of April 24th. This process will happen weekly, ensuring that the over 300 shelters and food banks receiving the food will not be left bare. As the COVID-19 pandemic affects more and more people’s livelihood the demand from food banks and shelters is anticipated to grow.

At the moment, 70 establishments have signed up across Quebec, over 100 chefs and cooks are taking part and 500+ tonnes of food have been offered up by. With this amazing support Les Cuisines Solidaires is expected to make 1.6 million meals over the next few months. With talks currently underway with the federal government, we can anticipate to see that number grow as Archambault and his team discuss funding to scale this program across Canada.

Archambault has seen this project rapidly change and communicated that “this project will see evolution” as we adapt to our new reality. He is thinking ahead and continuing this project, born out of the pandemic, into the future and setting up a system to be in place in case we face another pandemic in the future.

Archambault was in touch with Jose Andres of the World Central Kitchen who is running a similar initiative in the US. They shared notes and Archambault said “that our nations were divided by masks last week, but now we are united in the kitchen.”

If you are a chef, restauranteur or supplier who is interested in getting involved, visit La Tablée des Chefs, Les Cuisines Solidaires website.

 Archambault is grateful for all the supporters who have come on board. To see all of Les Cuisines Solidaires partners, please visit latableedeschefs.org

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