Annual event in support of program for people with addiction and mental health issues sells out for the second time
The second Food Court Social shook the marvellous grounds of Artscape Wychwood Barns on Sept. 24, benefiting the augmented education program (AEP) at George Brown College (GBC) for people who suffer from mental illnesses and addiction issues.
The casual atmosphere of the event included food and wine tasting. It was followed by a live auction and a speech from Ashlie Melvin, one of the AEP graduates.
Melvin said she couldn’t boil an egg before joining the program and it was a great pleasure and honour to study at George Brown. Melvin said she never thought she’d have to make a speech in front of such a huge crowd either.
In a 2014 video for the Food Court Social, Melvin talks about how she was addicted to drugs and alcohol as well as having mental health issues, which resulted in her living on the streets for several months.
When she showed up at her parent’s house one day, it hit her. “My mom just broke down in front of me when I saw her, and I realized that what I was doing was affecting everyone else in my life and I needed to change that.”
Melvin sought treatment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) where a counsellor helped her apply to the assistant cook extended training program at GBC.
After graduating, Melvin worked up to 70 hours a week at a job in a tapas restaurant before being hired as a culinary coach by the college, working with current students in the AEP program.
It was her story that inspired the GBC Foundation to organize the event to support more people like Melvin and give them opportunities to get a post-secondary education.
The food was generously provided by 12 chefs, including a GBC professor and several alumni.
For Chef David Wolfman, a culinary arts professor at GBC and an executive producer and host of Cooking with the Wolfman, this was the second time participating in the event. “It’s going for a good cause and it’s so nice to do this,” commented Wolfman.
Wolfman, along with his team of four, started prepping four days before the event. The night before the event they cut 450 portions of buffalo carpaccio, sage infused arrows, smoked corn relish and birch and balsamic glaze and plated it during the event.
Chef Mark McEwan, a celebrity chef and an ambassador for Second Harvest, is also a 1979 GBC graduate and a member of the George Brown Foundation. McEwan presented seared yellow tuna with his group.
Chef Rob Gentile, another GBC alumni and a prosperous Toronto restaurateur, was “on the line” outside the main hall, making a wood burning pizza burrata, one of the few vegetarian options at the event.
All in all, the event was a huge success. Although the food was over by 10 p.m., the bars were open until 11 p.m. and the music was playing, creating an appropriate and pleasant atmosphere for a Thursday night.
This year’s Food Court Social raised $200,000, which means it will cover half of the annual deficit of $405,000. As a result, the partnership between GBC and the CAMH with the augmented education program will be more accessible for future students.