Bright Side of Business: Fine dining establishment prepares nourishing meals for Cornerstone Women’s Shelter

Caroline Gosselin and her team at Cornerstone Housing on Booth St.
Editor's Note

The Bright Side of Business is presented by Star Motors.

Caroline Gosselin has had a long-time love affair with the restaurant business. After starting out as a server at the age of 16, she’s now the powerhouse owner of E18hteen Restaurant Group, which includes popular dining spots like Restaurant E18hteen and Sidedoor in the ByWard Market. 

Recalling her early beginnings, Gosselin says that she moved from serving to bartending to management and eventually found herself running a restaurant in Austria, which was exactly the fuel she needed to open her own space back home in Ottawa. 

“There weren’t a lot of (European-inspired) restaurants at the time that had that kind of white tablecloth, fine-dining, high-end experience,” Gosselin recalls. “I really wanted to bring that experience to the patrons of Ottawa.”

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E18hteen Restaurant Group recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. More than just a restaurant experience, the E18hteen team also partners with organizations such as the Ottawa Heart Institute and CHEO. 

“There’s a lot of ways that I feel so privileged,” Gosselin says. “It really is a place where we can give back.”

Before the pandemic, Gosselin and her team had partnered with Ottawa resident Chris Knight on Operation Big Turkey, providing free turkey dinners to thousands of people over the Christmas season. One year, the E18hteen team cooked 250 dinners on Christmas Eve. 

Then the pandemic hit and Gosselin and her team thought: Why not bring meals to the shelters directly? 

And so they partnered with Cornerstone Women’s Shelter. Based on Booth Street, the organization serves women experiencing chronic homelessness, complex mental health or substance issues. It also offers an aging-at-home program, with many women over the age of 50 living at Cornerstone permanently. 

Throughout the pandemic, Cornerstone faced numerous challenges, including staffing shortages, reduced funding and donations, as well as rising food costs and a fire that left behind extensive water and mould damage, forcing the location to temporarily close. 

The Ottawa community stepped in, offering such items as bedding, self-care and hygiene products. This past October, residents were able to move back in. Around that time, Cornerstone received a donation, which it was decided should go toward a big dinner.

Gosselin and her executive chef, David Godsoe, brainstormed a menu that would be “really nourishing at this time of the year,” Gosselin says. They settled on roast beef with mashed potatoes, vegetables and shallot butter. For vegetarians, they offered a hearty vegetarian lasagna. 

Of course, the pandemic was hard on the food industry, too. To keep her restaurants afloat before government subsidies kicked in, Gosselin had to remortgage her house. Despite her own struggles, she says there has never been a more important time to rally together. 

“You could see more people (becoming) homeless and stress and anxiety causing a lot more (issues) for vulnerable people in the city,” Gosselin says. “It’s a really important time to keep giving.”

She hopes that other restaurants feel inspired to give back. “I think it’s a great thing for the residents to know that they’re supported by restaurants,” she says. 

The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

This column is presented by Star Motors, Ottawa’s original Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes Van dealer. Since 1957, Star Motors has provided its customers with the Mercedes-Benz “The Best or Nothing” standard in vehicle selection, service, genuine parts and certified collision repair.

For your convenience, you may shop, research, chat and compare vehicles online at starmotors.ca, visit the 400 West Hunt Club location or call (613) 737-7827 for the very best in personal service.

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