This season, book a catering company that’s as committed to the community as it is creative in the kitchen
BY VALERIE HOWES
Community-minded companies are in hot demand these days. According to Canada Helps, 87 per cent of millennials prefer to spend their money on things with a social or environmental benefit, and 45 per cent say they want to use their money to help others. By hiring one of these GTA catering companies that care, embracing the giving spirit is as simple as throwing a party.
1Hawthorne Food & Drink
Ontario-sourced wines and farm-fresh ingredients are on the menu at Hawthorne Food & Drink (an agency funded by United Way)—with a side of social responsibility. This downtown fine-dining restaurant also caters, and the craft cocktails (Toronto Island Iced Tea, anyone?) and hors d’oeuvres are whipped up by youth facing barriers to employment. The trainees receive a year of free world-class culinary teaching and career development, and catering profits are funnelled back into the youth program.
(Photograph courtesy of Hawthorne Food & Drink)
Nish is short for Anishnawbe, and NishDish is a First Nations–owned catering company offering both Anishnawbe food and a hand in the resurgence of Indigenous food culture. Chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette offers everything from hors d’oeuvres to a full traditional feast, which might include dishes like roasted buffalo, bison chipotle sausage or pumpkin frybread muffins. Bonus offering: Book a presentation by Ringuette on Indigenous food traditions, techniques and concerns. (He also offers a cooking and culture course to Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, an agency funded by United Way.)
Animal fans, this one’s for you! Rescue Dogs is Toronto’s first vegan hot dog and street fare cart—and it also happens to cater year-round. As well as cooking up meatless hot dogs, they’ll feed your guests vegan sloppy Janes, cheesesteaks and desserts. Named “Best Food Truck” at the 2016 and 2017 Toronto Veg Awards, this little business has plenty to wag its tail about. And the best part? Rescue Dogs donates a portion of profits from every sale to local animal rescues, so they can afford to do necessary emergency surgeries on pooches awaiting their forever home.
(Photograph courtesy of Rescue Dogs Vegan Hot Dogs & Street Fare)
Operating out of the Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre, Loft Kitchen helps young people experiencing barriers to employment, including LGBTQ+ youth, newcomer and refugee youth and youth living with disabilities, get their first break in the working world. Last year, 515 youth participated in the program and received culinary training, networking opportunities and mentorship. The multicultural dishes they cook up (think hand-rolled sushi, silky crème brulée and juicy kebabs) are in keeping with the rich diversity of our city. These kids have catered events everywhere from OCAD to the University of Toronto to City Hall—your house party could be next!
5Filipino Fusion Desserts
Filipino Fusion Desserts offers the most vibrant dessert platters imaginable, with Filipino-meets-Western pastries such as red bean cannoli, bright green pandan pastillas and ube (purple yam) cheesecake with a galaxy glaze and gold leaf. Co-founders Rechie Valdez and Susan Perras were inspired by their own Filipino heritage and are committed to raising the profile of under-the-radar Filipino cuisine within Canada. The successful businesswomen give back to the Filipino-Canadian community by donating desserts and volunteering for organizations that support Filipino culture and development, including Rise, which helps Filipino youth advance in their education and career in Canada. Valdez and Perras’ next project: teaching Filipino-Canadian youth to bake, to help keep their love of traditional foods and flavours alive.
(Photograph courtesy of Nik B Photography)
6Lemon & Allspice
Carolyn Lemon’s grown-up daughter Cathy had a passion for baking, but due to her developmental disabilities, she was facing obstacles to securing permanent employment. To put an end to that problem, the mother and daughter team launched Lemon & Allspice, a catering business now owned and operated by a co-op of adults with developmental disabilities. The partners create baked goods (like the lemon and allspice cookies that started it all), healthy fruit and veggie platters, salads and sandwiches for events all over the city.
7Out of This World Café
Out of This World Café is a catering business that employs people with a history of mental health issues or addiction and helps reduce stigma and misconceptions around mental illness in the community. It began as a rehabilitation program operating out of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and evolved into a social enterprise in 2002. The team specializes in traditional North American food for events from five to more than 100 people. The menu possibilities are vast and tasty: from Chicken Scallopini Sandwiches to Quinoa and Roasted Vegetables to mini quiches and sausage rolls. And don’t forget the dessert squares—it wouldn’t be a party without them.