In today’s crowded fundraising landscape, it can be difficult to come up with original concepts but the United Way/Centraide of Ottawa’s Melissa MacIsaac clearly has a strong creative streak.
As the manager of donor relations, Melissa’s job involves liaising with many professional sector firms in Ottawa who run their own workplace campaigns for the United Way. “I have had lots of conversations over the past year with contacts at these offices and one thing became clear: they love competitions,” explains Melissa. “I wanted to find a way to tap into their competitive spirit while also leveraging Ottawa’s rich foodie culture at the same time.”
The result is the inaugural Ottawa Food Fusion event, taking place on Thursday, March 30 at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute. With help from senior United Way volunteers Craig O’Brien of Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP and Ryan Clarke of Edelman, Melissa was able to develop a great concept whereby five-members teams of professionals are receiving mentoring from a local chef to develop a unique dish. On March 30th, these teams will be tasked with recreating their dishes in the kitchens of Le Cordon Bleu – but without their chef’s help. “It’s kind of like what you see on Master Chef,” says Melissa. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and the friendly rivalries between the teams will be part of the appeal.”
Melissa says she was blown away by the generosity of the local chef community, many of whom already have numerous other charitable commitments on their schedules. “My first request was to Chef Joe Thottungal of the Coconut Lagoon and he came on board immediately. I was also able to line up Chef Jesse Bell from the Albion Rooms/Heritage Gastropub, Kyle Fewtrell of Tulips & Maple, Jon Szavas of Fauna and Bar Laurel, Julie Vachon of Le Cordon Bleu and culinary consultant Chef Ilan Dagan.”
The chef-mentors will be on hand to judge the teams’ culinary efforts on March 30, recusing themselves from judging their own team’s creation. Guests at the fun networking event will revel in all the action being livestreamed throughout the culinary school’s historical Sandy Hill mansion; in addition, they’ll enjoy cocktails, canapes and charcuterie. In addition, there will be a cooking demonstration courtesy of Le Cordon Bleu, tours of the Culinary Arts Institute and a chance to taste what the challengers create and vote for the people’s choice award.
“The overall goal is to have fun, incent a little healthy competition and raise some money,” notes Melissa, adding that the funds will be earmarked towards United Way’s work assisting those in our community with mental health issues and addictions. “We are planning to make Ottawa Food Fusion an annual event; given the talent we have in this city we hope it will grow into one of Ottawa’s most prestigious and sought-after charity events.”
Click here to purchase tickets, or donate in support of one of the participating teams.