Everybody's got to eat, so why not eat really well, make it more fun by doing it together, and raise some funds for charity while you're at it?
That’s the concept behind Taste for Hope, a successful and popular foodie event that supports Shepherds of Good Hope, one of the largest organizations in our city dedicated to meeting the needs of some of the most vulnerable people — homeless women and men.
The seventh annual benefit was back Wednesday at the Horticulture Building, located at Lansdowne Park.
Ottawa’s culinary community is the main ingredient in Taste for Hope, which was expected to gross more than last year's total of $80,000 from tickets sales, sponsorship and auction proceeds.
The restaurants participate on their own time and at their own expense. Chefs cook up a variety of gourmet canapés and cocktail snacks, washed down by local libations.
It's the kind of night that offers the easy-going vibe and all-around friendliness of a wonderful cocktail party. With 350 people in attendance, it was another easy sell-out.
"It's become such a well sought-after event," John Lindsay, from returning presenting sponsor BMO Wealth Management, told OBJ.social. "And, it's for such a good cause."
It’s the favourite foodie event for Pelican Seafood Market and Grill co-owner Jim Foster. He supports the cause every year and appreciates the level of consideration given by organizers to the food vendors. He also likes the bright and spacious venue and the size of the crowd. “You don’t feel like there’s a gazillion people,” he told OBJ.social.
Charity events like Taste for Hope are a rewarding way for restaurants to give back to the community, Foster added. “It’s obviously good for us because people get to taste our food, and that’s the best form of advertising, but it’s also nice to see a smile on their faces when they’re eating something that’s great."
There were 18 chefs that took part this year from: Andaz Hotel's Feast + Revel, Coconut Lagoon, Ola Cocina, National Art Centre's Le Café, allsaints Event Space, Oz Kafe, Stofa, Orto Trattoria, Oat Couture, Black Tartan Kitchen, Eighteen Group, Pelican Seafood Market and Grill, Heart & Crown, Le St. Laurent, Fraser Café, Thyme & Again, Sutherland Restaurant and Fairouz.
Deirdre Freiheit, president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope (SGH), was present. So were SGH Foundation vice president Neil Leslie, event sponsors and SGH board members, ranging from new ones — like Stephen Ball, president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association — to long-time supporters, such as John Peters, a principal with Jaimac Risk Management. His connection to the charity dates back 25 years.
One of the goals of Taste for Hope is to increase awareness of the cause. Besides providing an emergency shelter and running a soup kitchen, Shepherds of Good Hope also operates supportive housing facilities, a clothing and food program, a police and paramedic diversion program, and other innovative programs, services and partnerships that address mental health, addictions and trauma.
“It is such a great organization and I feel like a lot of people don’t understand how much work they actually do and how many people they support in this city,” said Ottawa entrepreneur Melissa Shabinsky, who sits on the board of the SGH Foundation. As well, she's a partner in RAW Pulp + Grind vegetarian restaurant and juice bar, which participated in Taste for Hope.
Her husband, Ian Shabinsky, was also sponsoring the fundraiser through Glenview, an established Ottawa commercial and residential real estate company.
SGH serves an average of 700 meals a day, provides temporary shelter each year to more than 2,250 people and supportive housing to another 225 individuals. It has more than 400 volunteers.
Shabinsky has been helping to boost the organization’s profile by gathering philanthropic women and hosting tours of the non-profit organization’s downtown location. She also ran a gift wrapping event at the facility last December for the Shoebox Project, which delivers presents over the holidays to women living in shelters.
“I really admire the work that they do,” said Shabinsky. “This organization doesn’t judge in any way. They help anybody, whether it’s to give someone a good meal or a good bed. It really opens up its arms up to the city and takes everybody in.”