Ottawa Restaurant Fund to help displaced wait staff, cooks and others in financial distress
DEC 18 14 – 1:45 PM — Chefs chalked up an amazing $10,000 Tuesday night at the first (of what may be many) charity fundraising dinners to help those who have fallen on hard times in the hospitality industry.
Called Chef Bites, the fundraiser at Sante restaurant on Rideau Street was the brainchild of Caroline Ishii, formerly of ZenKitchen vegan restaurant, and Donna Holton, owner of the host restaurant and Holtz Spa.
“It was truly amazing all around!” Ishii said.
“I am thrilled by the incredible community spirit around Chef Bites, the new Ottawa Restaurant Fund, and I’m in awe of the talent and generosity of the chefs.
“In one night we raised over $10,000 and guests were asking to be put on the mailing list for the next event. I also have chefs lining up for the next one,” she said.
Largest single fundraising item was $3,000 paid at auction for chefs Marc Lepine, Matthew Carmichael, Marc Doiron, Caroline Ishii and Steve Mitton to prepare dinner for 10 at the donor’s home.
Anyone who’s even casually interested in the local food scene knows restaurants have been suffering with some pretty big names closing this year. It’s pretty much assumed there will be more spectacular collapses in 2015, some victims of a local economy in the pits, others because they’ve simply priced themselves out of an overstocked market that will not sustain – not in any big numbers, anyway – plates priced at over $40 for mains.
The same thing is happening with a series of high-profile restaurant closings in Montreal, so Ottawa is by no means unique.
Sadly, the ordinary men and women who work for wages pay a high price – especially if they’re stiffed for a paycheque (or a few) because the employer has been running on fumes. So Ishii and Holtom created a fund with the Ottawa Community Foundation to assist displaced restaurant employees with creative solutions like “micro loans” for emergency assistance and educational upgrades that go beyond just handouts.
Participating chefs this time around included Marc Lepine (Atelier restaurant), Scott Adams (Benny’s Bistro), Matthew Carmichael (El Camino), Jason Laurin (Essence Catering), Ross Fraser (Fraser Café), Steve Mitton (Murray Street), Marc Doiron (Town), Chris Deraiche (Wellington Gastropub), Caroline Ishii (co-founder, former ZenKitchen).
Sponsors of the evening include Banfield, Sante restaurant, Trius Winery, Pondview Estate Winery, Broadhead Brewing Co., and Beyond the Pale Brewing Co. Mini cheesecakes at the end were from Eden Cheesecake Co.