As we enter into the holiday season, we’re reminded that it’s also time to give back. Food insecurity is one of the biggest issues that we face and as we continue to battle COVID, experience job loss, and many of the cities across Canada enter into a second lockdown, food insecurity is on the rise.
La Tablée des Chefs is a charity whose mission is to feed people in need and to develop culinary education for young people. The organization was founded by the 2019 RC Show Leadership Award winner Jean-François Archambault.
Since last April, La Tablée des Chefs has been leading the Solidarity Kitchens initiative, which, based on food recovery and in collaboration with food and culinary industries, made it possible to provide 2 million meals to the most disadvantaged through the network of food banks.
In early November, the first virtual edition of La Tablée des Chefs’ main fundraising event, La Grande Tablée, was held. The participants took part in the live event from the comfort of their homes, while tasting dishes that had been delivered to them for this reinvented gastronomic evening.
This winter season, La Tablée des Chefs has introduced the Solidarity Gift Baskets. Employing their brigade of talented chefs, the team has created mouth-watering sweet and savoury treats to fill each Solidarity Gift Basket. The baskets are designed exclusively by chefs who have generously taken part in the Solidarity Kitchens (Les Cuisines Solidaires) initiative.
Wondering what’s included in each basket? Head over here to find out.
To learn more about this initiative we spoke to three Canadian chefs involved in La Tablée des Chefs about why this movement is so important, and why this time is especially pivotal to take action.
Carl Heinrich is the Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Richmond Station. Born in Calgary and raised across Canada, Carl started working in kitchens when he was 13 and studied at the Stratford Chef’s School before training in kitchens in NYC with Daniel Boulud. He is the recipient of the 2015 Pinnacle Award for Chef of the Year and winner of the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada in 2012.
Carl’s cuisine is inspired by quality local ingredients and driven by technique. He makes food that he knows his mom would like to eat and keeps flavours pure. An avid gardener and home cook, Carl lives in Toronto with his wife Julia and two kids, Theodore and Jane.
Corporate Executive Chef, Matthew Sullivan oversees all MLSE properties and restaurants. He started his culinary career attending and graduating from Stratford Chefs School. Since then, he has obtained a tremendous number of accolades over the years. He has staged in restaurants all over the world including Michelin Star kitchens. With these experiences, his passion for cooking and love for food grew even stronger. This allowed him to eventually become a Chopped Canada champion and a competitor on season six of Top Chef Canada with an impressive showing, being a front-runner of the show.
Chef Sullivan’s career at MLSE started over four years ago, where he was instrumental in pushing the food program at Real Sports and the Arena’s quick-service locations forward at an exponential level. Now in his role as Corporate Executive Chef, Chef Sullivan supports the Culinary Director, Chris Zielinski, and their team of talented chefs to continuously grow MLSE’s food program.
Executive Chef jW Foster has been part of the Fairmont family for over 17 years with time spent at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai, Fairmont Dallas, Fairmont San Francisco, and Fairmont Banff Springs. Chef jW brings a true taste of the world through his award-winning talent and highly respected food philosophy to one of Canada’s most iconic hotels, Fairmont Royal York.
The philosophies of “nose to tail” and “hug your farmer” are the core values behind Chef jW’s vision at Fairmont Royal York. In accordance with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ sustainability initiatives, Chef jW also honours its commitment to favour local food suppliers and seasonal produce. Chef jW works closely with Ontario farmers, and even cares for the hotel’s own rooftop herb garden and apiary to offer locally-sourced menus.
How did you get involved in La Tablee des Chefs?
Carl Heinrich: I received a message from Chris Zielinski at MLSE about getting involved in the program’s expansion into Ontario. Richmond Station will be adding its famous Beet Relish into the Solidarity Gift Baskets that will be ready in time for the holidays.
Matthew Sullivan: I had the chance to work with Chef jW Foster with MLSE and really respect what he does. His passion for this is really contagious.
jW Foster: I was honoured last year to be involved with the Toronto event. Extremely excited to be part of this year’s event as the current challenges we are all facing at the moment, this event brings us closer together.
Why did you get involved?
CH: Food Insecurity is an enormous issue in our community and across our country. Millions of Canadians do not know where their next meal is going to come from on a daily basis, and now more than ever. Nutritious food is a basic human right and unfortunately, food insecurity is not a food issue. It is a policy issue. Raising awareness on these issues and educating our youth is how we are going to get this message into the hands of people who can make a difference.
MS: Obviously, the chance to help out during these times is an absolute no brainer, even more so because it is being organized by two great leaders – Chef Zielinski and Chef jW Foster. You can sign me up for anything those two are running.
jWF: I’m a huge supporter of what the organization is doing and again with a year that the world has had to experience together, this event helps show how we can come together and make a difference.
Why do you think educating younger generations is so essential in keeping our industry alive and in ensuring the health of future generations?
CH: Malnourishment leads to chronic disease. Chronic diseases occupy the majority of our health care dollars. Funding health care occupies the majority of Canadians’ tax dollars. As Canadians, we are already paying for the consequences of food insecurity and malnourishment. Educating our youth about the importance of healthy food, where our food comes from, and how to cook has never been more important.
MS: We have a lot of work to do and know a lot more than we did before. It’s essential we teach and empower younger generations to not only continue the work we started but to build on it.
jWF: Our industry is built on passing knowledge and skill down to the next inspiring cooks and chefs. Food safety is a considerable focus we all need to support and embrace to ensure future health.
How does an event/initiative like this help and benefit the foodservice industry at such a challenging time?
MS: I think this helps by showing the public that even though we are part of an industry that has been hit harder than maybe anyone else, we are still doing our part to give back. We aren’t doing this for praise or recognition but because it’s the right thing to do. My hope is that people see this and will be supportive of the foodservice industry and give back however they can.
jWF: It shows we are all in this together and it inspires all of us to think differently and be kind. Food is a huge part of all cultures as it brings the family to the table.