There’s a new ruling power in town, beyond our freshly elected Ottawa mayor.
Chef Mitch Lacombe from Gitanes earned the coveted title of Sandwich Sovereign of Ottawa on Tuesday night. The announcement was made at the popular Breaking Bread Breaking Stigma fundraiser held for the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre at Allsaints, which was the returning title sponsor.
The trophy was presented to the culinary artist by Kathryn Tremblay, CEO and co-founder of excelHR and Altis Recruitment. Lacombe’s gourmet sandwich was carefully selected, based on taste, plating and originality, by a group of judges consisting of award-winning chef Joe Thottungal (Coconut Lagoon, Thali restaurants), culinary ambassador Margaret Dickenson, Ottawa food blogger Allie Simanzik (@yumyumyow) and Hien Nguyen, a psychologist with Anchor Psychological Services. She joined the panel after the opportunity was auctioned off to the highest bidder.
The People’s Choice Award went to last year’s sandwich sovereign, Chef T from The BBQ Joint. He was presented his award by Tracy Rait-Parkes, a Hopewell board member, event committee member and sponsor of the event through the family-run Taggart Parkes Foundation.
Breaking Bread Breaking Stigma grossed its highest amount to date of $62,000.
Chefs from Beckta, The Belmont, Working Title Kitchen and Torta Boyz participated in the competition, as well, and helped to feed the room full of 220 guests while Flora Hall Brewing served up cold pints.
Rait-Parkes was joined at Breaking Bread Breaking Stigma by her fellow board members, including president Nick Heisler, public health specialist and event chair Kathy Unsworth, Arlo Wine & Restaurant co-owner Emily Bertrand, Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall lawyer Noémie Ducret, Proof Strategies senior vice president Greg MacEachern and Lucyna Neville, one of the co-founders of Hopewell. Also on hand was Leanne Moussa, founder of Allsaints, a former church-turned-venue space in Sandy Hill.
Many of the restaurants involved in the fundraiser generously donated dining packages to the live auction. Particularly popular was the six-course tasting menu with wine pairing at Coconut Lagoon from Thottungal, who is the inaugural 2017 Sandwich Sovereign. Tremblay wanted it. So did Scott Parkes. Thottungal let them each buy it at their top bids of $1,500.
The evening was hosted by Sam Laprade of The Sam Laprade Show and An Hour to Give on CityNews 101.1. She’s practically a fixture on the fundraising scene this fall as emcee of 22 events. “I love our community, and meeting people at events in the city is the cherry on top,” Laprade told OBJ.social.
The fundraiser also featured a live musical performance from Ottawa-born singer-songwriter Nambi, who was joined on stage by her son, Amari, on drum.
Working hard behind the scenes were Ameera Brown, Hopewell’s events and communications coordinator, with her co-worker, Julia Williams, program officer and interim program coordinator.
Each year, Hopewell serves as a support system for hundreds of individuals, ages 18 and older, struggling in Eastern Ontario with eating disorders, a potentially deadly mental illness. The community-based organization helps its clients to navigate the system, to make sure they get the help and treatment they need, said executive director Jeff Bond.
As well, Hopewell runs its own group and mentorship programs to provide ongoing support to individuals, some of whom may suffer a relapse at different stages in their lives, he added. “We know this is a life-long journey for many people.”
It’s no secret that, during the pandemic, hospitalizations and visits to emergency departments due to eating disorders surged among young women in Canada, rising by more than 50 per cent, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
“We’ve more than doubled our programs, almost tripled our programs, since the beginning of the pandemic, and have maintained those levels since,” said Bond. “What we’ve found over the past few years is that the pandemic has really made it very obvious that there are significant gaps in services and support for people needing our services, right across Eastern Ontario. We’re trying to fill those gaps by providing more access to people across the region.”
Hopewell has also worked to diversify some of its programming, he added, to find different ways to help people.
As much as Breaking Bread Breaking Stigma is about bringing people together for a night of food, drinks and socializing, it also generates one-third of the organization’s annual revenue. “Events like this, as fun as they are, carry a really important purpose. Not only do they help us connect with our community and build on those relationships but, at the end of the day, the funds that are raised are critical in our ability to deliver our programs and services,” said Bond.