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Reducing food waste in the capital, one plate at a time

“Food waste is a real concern and I am happy to see we can turn this into something so positive for everyone involved,” says Jean-François Archambault, founder and CEO of La Tablée des Chefs. 

He was asked about a new partnership between his organization and Ottawa Tourism to support rerouting food untouched by delegates and sporting attendees to hungry mouths in our city.

On their part, Ottawa Tourism understands the crucial need for the tourism industry to play its part in terms of sustainability and social responsibility – something that is even outlined in Ottawa’s Destination Stewardship Plan

In a city that hosts many major events and business meetings, the difficulty to predict the exact amount of food required to satisfy attendees can become an obstacle to sustainability.

“We really pride ourselves on being stellar hosts. One of the byproducts is a lot of leftover food. We want to make sure that we can recover as much of it as possible and positively benefit the community,” said Mary Sayewich, director of strategy and projects at Ottawa Tourism. “We want to keep it out of landfills.” 

Spurred by this challenge, Ottawa Tourism started looking for solutions. And in a fitting fashion, their team came across La Tablée des Chefs at a conference, an organization that recovers surplus food for redistribution to community organizations that help people in need.

Immediately seeing a good fit in their mandates, they began working on what is now the first partnership between La Tablée des Chefs and a Destination Organization that serves as a liaison with their partners in the hospitality sector. 

Launched with TD Place on May 31st, Ottawa hospitality partners now working with La Tablée des Chefs through Ottawa Tourism include the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Casino Lac-Leamy, Lord Elgin Hotel, Ottawa Marriott Hotel, Shaw Centre, The Westin Ottawa, and My Catering Group.

A grassroots initiative

La Tablée des Chefs was founded in 2002 by Jean-François Archambault, a former manager in the hotel industry who was dismayed by the amount of waste he witnessed. 

Archambault studied hotel management at Montreal’s Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec and worked in Fairmont hotels. He then became Director of Sales and Marketing for Marriott hotels, eventually opening hotels for them.

“We would practice in our cooking classes and we’d eat what we prepared, but so much fresh food would still go into the garbage,” he said. “I really wanted to do something about it but the industry at that time was not ready for change.”

It took some time to catalyze results. Archambault said the industry was hesitant because of potential liability issues.  

But after speaking to leaders in the culinary, food and hotel sectors, the project quickly came together. It began with workshops held at youth centres in 2012, with the launch of a food recovery program coming a year later. 

During that time the sustainable food recovery initiative ran out of 47 establishments and recovered over 246,000 portions of food. In the 22 years since, 12 million meals have been recovered across Canada. 

So how does the program work? 

“We essentially act as matchmakers,” explained Archambault. “We train hotels, event spaces and catering agencies to store the food for a community partner. We also provide them with containers, plastic bags, buckets for soups or sauces that they can recover safely.” 

It’s an opportunity for kitchens to give back to the city that supports them while building an ecosystem that supports community. 

“We are really excited to be introducing this program to our community and we look forward to others in the community taking part in this,” said Sayewich, highlighting the commitment of the tourism industry to be an engaged and responsible member of the community. 

Any hospitality partner who wants learn more can contact Ottawa Tourism at