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Local Chef, Local Hero: The industry finds a champion within its ranks

As the food industry continues to persevere, Canadians across the country are rising to the occasion. Canadian egg farmers have seen it first-hand as hard-working members of almost every community across Canada. While these farmers have proudly donated millions of eggs to food banks and given back to their communities in a multitude of ways, today they’re showing their admiration for another integral part of the food industry, the culinary community. Because not all heroes wear capes – some wear an apron.

Saskatchewan-based chef, Dale MacKay is a familiar name to many. His restaurants are some of the most renowned in Canada, and he’d be the first to say, you don’t get there on your own. Back in 2009, he met Christopher Cho – an aspiring cook at the time who had travelled from Toronto all the way to Vancouver looking for a new place to learn and grow. Chef Dale decided to give him a chance and the young man quickly proved his heart was in the right place. Twelve years later and his heart has only grown. Today, Chef Dale is shining a spotlight on Christopher, in celebration of him continuously going above and beyond to support his local community and the whole hospitality industry.

Christopher Cho

Chef Dale: In a year that presented many challenges, how have you been able to support others and give back to the Canadian food industry?

Christopher: In the restaurant industry, gratuities mean everything to our staff, and it’s no surprise we’ve been hit hard by the pandemic. Unfortunately, there are very few relief funds for our industry, even though many live paycheck to paycheck. I’m proud to be a board member of the Bartenders Benevolent Fund, which provides financial resources for hospitality professionals across Canada. We help everyone who needs it, from dishwashers to bartenders, anyone in the industry can apply. In the past year we’ve provided $500,000 in relief funds.

What learnings or positives can you take away from this past year?

I just don’t take things for granted anymore. I keep learning from the producers and farmers who dedicate their lives to producing fresh, local food. It helps me celebrate what we all do in the culinary community and appreciate the hard work and people in the entire food industry. More than ever, I really just celebrate what we have here in Canada.

How have you seen the culinary community come together this year?

My friends are spread out across the country and even in the States. This year, more than ever, they’re reaching out asking me how I’m doing. We’ve had video chats and done cooking tutorials. The tough times in the food community have kind of united us, and we’ve all rallied together.

In an industry that’s usually so competitive, this year definitely feels like we’re all on the same team.

Yeah for sure, and the obligation goes both ways. We’re really conscious about our food orders because we know a lot of farmers depend on us just as much as we do them. This year we had local farmers drop off produce and some brands drop off products for free. We ended up making some custom cocktail kits and it really helped us keep our staff going.

How can we work to maintain the strength of the Canadian food system?

It’s all about collaboration, cohesiveness, and sustainability. Basically, it all comes together when everyone from the farm to the table work together. And it helps when you work with ingredients from your region starting with local farmers. I do a lot of research before I order, then share that with the community. That approach is how we’ll support each other through this and come out on top. Also, I want to give a shout-out: Saskatchewan’s mushrooms are some of the best in the world. And you know what goes great with mushrooms… fresh, high-quality, local eggs!

Resilience and community are the bricks and mortar of Canada’s culinary community, and while our brick and mortars may have changed for the time being, our foundation has not. Stories like Chef Dale and Christopher’s are why Canadian egg farmers are so proud to play a role in Canada’s food supply chain. Discover more at @eggsoeufs or #LocalChefLocalHero.

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