Graduates of the program returned as chefs for the Food Court Social
The fifth annual Food Court Social took over George Brown College’s (GBC) Waterfront campus on Sept. 27. This is a fundraising event put on by the GBC Foundation to offset the costs associated with the college’s augmented education program. This program supports those impacted by mental health and addiction issues to bring them closer towards employment.
“We have a ridiculous amount of success stories with our students,” said Suzanne De Freitas, the program manager. The event featured over a dozen chefs who were separated by booths along the main floor of the campus. Fidel Gastro’s food truck was parked outside the entrance for those who deeply craved California tacos.
“This is our fifth year and it is the best chef line up that we’ve had in five years and we’ve built that over the course of time,” said Cindy Gouveia, president of the foundation.
450 tickets were sold for this year’s Food Court Social.
“It’s just wonderful to see the students, to see so many chefs who work closely with the college and to do an event that helps ensure that we can continue this program, which I think is a very special program,” Anne Sado, president of GBC added.
“My life was like, it was really bad, I didn’t want to live anymore but when I started the program it turned 180,” said Donna Villeneuve, graduate of the augmented education program who also delivered the feature address.
“I had a lot of panic attacks, just about to quit a few times because of the stress,” she further she relayed and acknowledged faculty for their help.
Villeneuve hopes to return to help others the way she was helped.
“It was pretty rocky, I was homeless actually for a few years before the program,” Anthony Miller, another graduate explained.
Having worked in a kitchen before, being a part of this program was where he “felt really confident.”
There were “a lot of internal battles that I had to just fight and kind of figure out for myself, a lot of demons I had to tackle,” Miller said, regarding his past mental health issues and addictions which he has since overcome.
Chef Ashley Farnell curated the augmented education booth’s menu for the evening while teaching assistants, Christopher Davis and Nuha Hameed, both of whom are graduates, to manage the team.
They delivered a roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup, coconut-crusted shrimp with minted mango and honeydew salsa, and mini chocolate tarts.
“It gave me a lot of opportunities,” Hameed said, who has been teaching the augmented education program since 2014.
Hameed is a single mother of three, originally from Sri Lanka. After her move to Canada she became depressed, not knowing anyone in the new country.
She now owns her own private catering company, Rosie’s Kitchen, which opened in 2016 and caters to Sri Lankan and Indian communities.
Similarly, Davis has come a long way as a result of this program. He went from not knowing how to cook to teaching for the past four years and traveling across the country to work in restaurants every now and then.
“I see it as full circle”, he said.