Ottawa's Taste for Hope chefs raise $80,000 for Shepherds of Good Hope

Sold-out food-tasting benefit helps Ottawa's poor and homeless population

They say it’s rude to take pictures of people while they’re eating, but what choice does a paparazzi girl have at an epic foodie event like A Taste for Hope, where everyone is chowing down on delectable dishes prepared by some of the city’s best-known chefs.

A sold-out crowd of 400 hopped from culinary station to culinary station at the 6th annual fundraiser for Shepherds of Good Hope (SOGH). The $150-a-ticket event (with $100 tax receipt) was back at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne on Wednesday, with BMO Wealth Management returning as presenting sponsor. 

“I wouldn’t want to be looking for a place to eat tonight – all the chefs are here,” quipped Robin Duetta, who coordinates the chefs.

A Taste for Hope
Spring was in the air as chef Charlie Part, co-owner of ‎Les Fougères Restaurant & Store in nearby Chelsea, Que., participates in this year's A Taste for Hope fundraiser for Shepherds of Good Hope, held at the Horticulture Building on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
A Taste for Hope
Jason Laurin, chef and owner of Essence Catering, at A Taste for Hope, an annual food and drink tasting benefit held in support of the Shepherds of Good Hope. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The who's who of culinary talent featured such chefs as Kenton Leier from the National Arts Centre, Marc Lepine from Atelier and Joe Thottungal from Coconut Lagoon, to name just a few of the 20 in total. 

New this year was Riviera. Its chef and owner Jordan Holley told OBJ.social he “absolutely” plans to return after finding himself very impressed. 

A Taste for Hope
From left, Jeramy Rugg with Jordan Holley, chef and owner of Riviera, which was one of 20 area restaurants to participate in A Taste for Hope in support of the Shepherds of Good Hope. Photo by Caroline Phillips
A Taste for Hope
National Arts Centre executive chef Kenton Leier holds up his dish of tuna tataki with Brussels sprouts and spring slaw, served to a sold-out crowd at this year's A Taste for Hope benefit for the Shepherds of Good Hope. Photo by Caroline Phillips
A Taste for Hope
Atelier executive chef and owner Marc Lepine, two-time winner of the Gold Medal Plates culinary competition, seen hanging out with award-winning food writer Anne DesBrisay at this year's A Taste for Hope. Photo by Caroline Phillips
A Taste for Hope
Robin Duetta, producer of A Taste for Hope, with Kimothy Walker, managing partner of Ottawa Media Group, at this year's benefit for the Shepherds of Good Hope, held at the Horticulture Building on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Even though the room was thick with people, the event didn't suffer from long food and drink lineups. The mood was relaxed and casual,  with Brazilian-influenced jazz music playing throughout the night.

The benefit grossed $80,910 while also raising awareness for a non-profit organization best known for being a soup kitchen and shelter to homeless men and women at the corner of Murray Street and King Edward Avenue, in the ByWard Market.

It’s more than that, though, the room heard. It runs innovative programs, such as helping alcoholics who are chronically homeless. It also operates five supportive housing residences throughout the city, with plans to open a sixth one in the east end in the next couple of years.

On average, the Shepherds of Good Hope dishes out 800 meals and serves about 450 people in shelter and supportive housing on a daily basis.

Deirdre Freiheit, president and CEO of the SOGH, took to the stage to thank the chefs, event sponsors and attendees for supporting a vulnerable group of people who struggle with mental health, addictions and, often, severe traumatic life experiences.

“Sometimes, they lose connections with their family,” she noted. “It’s really nice for them to see the kind of support that they get from their own community, and to know that they’re not forgotten.”

A Taste for Hope
From left, Mayor Jim Watson, who attended this year's A Taste for Hope benefit, with Shepherds of Good Hope president and CEO Deirdre Freiheit and Neil Leslie, vice president of the Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips
A Taste
From left, donor Mary Taggart from the non-profit, family-run Taggart Parkes Foundation, attended this year's A Taste for Hope benefit with her good friends, Keith Henry and his wife, Krista Kealey, vice-president of communications at the Ottawa International Airport Authority. Photo by Caroline Phillips
A Taste for Hope
John Lindsay, vice president and senior investment counsellor with presenting sponsor BMO Wealth Management, with his wife, Gail, at A Taste for Hope, an annual fundraiser for the Shepherds of Good Hope, held at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

On hand from the SOGH Foundation was its vice-president, Neil Leslie, as well as board chair Ryan Kilger, a lawyer with Vincent Dagenais Gibson, and fellow board member Melissa Shabinsky. Her business partner, 2017 Forty Under 40 recipient Jordan O'Leary with RAW Pulp + Grind, took part this year and was seen offering up a selection of yummy cold-pressed juices, with mango salad. 

A Taste for Hope
Melissa Shabinsky with business partner Jordan O'Leary from RAW Pulp + Grind, at this year's Taste for Hope benefit, held at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
A Taste for Hope
From left, Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation board members Mark Roundell, vice president and portfolio manager at RBC Wealth Management Dominion Securities, with John Peters and board chairman Ryan Kilger at A Taste for Hope, held at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

After some nourishing noshing, the crowd turned its attention to the auction items, including some private dining experiences with Taste for Hope chefs, sold to the highest bidder by gavel-swinging live auctioneer Ryan Watson.

Harriet Clunie, chef and owner of Beechwood Gastropub, donated an exclusive dinner for six at her restaurant. It sold for $1,700.

She told OBJ. social how she had the opportunity to take an eye-opening tour of the Shepherds of Good Hope facilities after helping out there one day, preparing a lunch for a group of female donors.

“I just think that they do such amazing progressive work."

A Taste for Hope
Joe Thottungal, chef and owner of Coconut Lagoon, with Harriet Clunie, chef and owner of Beechwood Gastropub, at A Taste for Hope, an annual food and drink tasting benefit held in support of the Shepherds of Good Hope. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Clunie said she was "super happy" to be returning to Taste for Hope this year.

“I really want to be part of the community and I really try and give back whenever I can."

No kidding. The night before, she participated in a culinary benefit at Bar Lupulus and she's taking part in a cooking competition on Sunday for the Parkdale Food Centre.

Stephen La Salle is the executive chef at the Andaz Ottawa Byward Market hotel and its signature restaurant, Feast + Revel. He's been known to take his team over to the Shepherds of Good Hope to cook up dinner for everyone there. They also serve the meal.

“It’s great to give back to our community, and the Shepherds of Good Hope is in our neighbourhood,” said La Salle.

A Taste for Hope
From left, Katie Jones with Andaz Ottawa Byward Market executive chef Stephen La Salle, Cassandra Chiasson and Zi Zhang at A Taste for Hope, held at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Danny Mongeon, one of the founding chefs of A Taste for Hope, was in town from Jasper, where he's now with the Sawridge Inn. Those looking for a Rocky Mountain getaway, with a VIA Rail voucher, could bid on a five-course dinner with wine that Mongeon donated to the event.

It sold for $1,600.

A Taste for Hope
Danny Mongeon, a longtime support of A Taste for Hope, with the event's producer, Robin Duetta, at this year's benefit, held at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.
A Taste for Hope
Auctioneer Ryan Watson from Raising the Bid.

- caroline@obj.ca