Ottawa chefs launch charity dinners at area farms — with a unique riff

Ottawa chefs launch charity dinners at area farms — with a unique riff

First meal June 16 at Mariposa Farms includes shuttle, tip and tax. But you also have to volunteer at Shepherds of Good Hope

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Above, chef/partner Danny Mongeon at Hooch Bourbon House on Rideau Street has an idea for charity giving that goes beyond opening a chequebook.

MAY 06 14 – 11:30 AM — We’re not exactly reinventing wheels when we talk about generous Ottawa chefs who from time to time come together to raise money for a worthy cause — whether it’s tsunami relief overseas, or culinary bursaries at a community college, or HIV/AIDS programs, or school breakfasts.

Usually a percentage of the ticket price goes toward the charity, which may or may not issue a tax receipt for part of the total.

But chef/owner Danny Mongeon, who opened 40-seat (or so) Hooch Bourbon House not quite a year ago on Rideau Street, has a different spin on fundraising that combines charity work with short bus trips to area farms maybe four times a year, each presenting a special theme menu created by eight chefs (with wine/beer pairings) looking to do something a bit different.

Wheeled-Triskelion-basicCalled Flux, the dinner club name is meant to “reflect constant state of change,” Mongeon says.

“We’re using the Irish spiral — the triskele triple spiral — as a logo (at right) to symbolize growth and evolution. So this is a culinary collaboration between me and seven other chefs with a series of four or five dinners through summer and fall at different locations. The first one at Mariposa Farms in Plantagenet on June 16 has space left for 30 people and costs $175 including shuttle bus from Hooch restaurant, taxes and tip. Of that, a $25 tax receipt will be issued by the Shepherds of Good Hope.”

Now, here’s the truly unique part:

As folks purchase tickets on the Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation website, they’re also asked to pledge two hours of volunteer time at the Shepherds in various capacities, whether it’s at the soup kitchen, clothing or grocery program, or at any one of eight shelters.

“We’re kind of going on an honour system,” Mongeon says, “where tickets to this unique dinner are only available on the Shepherds website.

“The food will be inspired by nature, growth and spring, based on a theme of wild edibles with many small courses. In one course I’ll capture different flavours of the maple tree — from sugar to sap, or a syrup made from the bark itself. If we use a cotton candy machine to spin the three or four different maple flavours, we can place it on a tree branch for presentation.”

IMG_0159Other participating chefs are Kyle Mortimer-Proulx of ZenKitchen, Stephen LaSalle of The Albion Rooms, Ian Reed at The Courtyard Restaurant, Ian Carswell of K-W Catering (National Gallery), Denise Myeong at The Wakefield Inn, Razmon Poisson at Navarra, and Adam Bannerman at Hooch.

“Each chef is responsible for different courses,” Mongeon says.

“For example, I know Kyle is thinking of real femrmented kimchi in the Korean tradition where ramps and cabbage are placed in a vessel and buried outside to ferment. That way, the diners can see him dig it up and bring it in to plate.

“We really want to be innovative and creative. While the first one will be at Mariposa Farms, we’re thinking the next in July could be at Rideau Pines Farm in North Gower, another in August at a Vineyard in Prince Edward County, maybe in September at O’Brien Farms in Winchester.”

The big question that comes to my mind, anyway: Will the same people who pay $175 a ticket also volunteer two hours of time for charity work?

Anna Silverman, executive director of the Shepherds Foundation, thinks the idea has cachet.

“It’s cool because it sends a message that even though money is good, we also need hands to get the work done.

“So people may volunteer time at the soup kitchen, but we also need help with all our other programs and supportive living buildings. No one has ever made volunteer service a requirement like this.

“A two-hour commitment gives people a taste for volunteering and hopefully that will turn into a larger commitment from them. Everyone who buys a ticket will be contacted by someone from our volunteer department to set up the opportunity,” Silverman says.

Adds Mongeon: “I think these dinners will appeal to adventurous diners.

“It’s fun to visit a farm, meet the growers and see where it all comes from while enjoying unique food you won’t find in a restaurant in the city. So this is a place for us to grow as chefs and help the community. The charity will not always be the Shepherds, but one will always be involved and it will always be a bit off the wall.”

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Twitter: @roneade
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