Now in its sixth year, Hungry Hearts is a fundraising gala for Our Place Society.

This year the event has a new venue, the Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort.

Hungry Hearts is an evening of culinary delights as chefs compete for best dish, and for the title of top chef.  Guests can also bid on live and silent auctions and have chance to win door prizes and more.

Also new this year, students from Camosun College’s Culinary Arts program are participating.

“We were asked a couple of months ago if we would take part,” says Culinary Arts Instructor Robert Budlong, “and obviously, for the community involvement, and the cause that it is, we jumped at the opportunity.”

“It’s awesome to just be there,” says first-year Culinary Arts student Samuel Whyte, “but if we manage to do well on the competitive side, then that’s an added bonus.”

The group of first-year Culinary Arts students will test their creative cooking skills against a number of Victoria’s top chefs.

“Hungry Hearts is a big fundraiser for Our Place,” says Grant McKenzie from Our Place Society.  “It’s probably our biggest fundraiser of the year.

“It’s a real gala evening.  Everybody gets dressed up, there’s fantastic gourmet dishes, there’s a live auction… judging from past years, the food has been absolutely incredible, and every year the chefs compete against each other, to one-up each other, so the level of cuisine just goes up and up!”

“We were asked to do a vegetarian dish for the event,” says Budlong, “so that was our starting block.  We bounced ideas off students, and they gave us a whole bunch of ideas.  We’ve been trying a few things, and hopefully we’re coming up with the right one – the winning dish!”

Over the past five years, Hungry Hearts has raised more than $600,000 for Victoria’s most vulnerable residents. This year, funds raised will be dedicated to keeping Our Place open into the evening.

“This year,” says McKenzie, “we’re really hoping to extend our hours. We really want to be open till 9 o’clock every night.  Normally we get extra funding [only] in the winter, to be open from 6 o’clock to 9 o’clock, which is the gap before the overnight shelters open.

“Everybody tells us that when Our Place is open, the streets are less crowded, people who are homeless and struggling with poverty have a place to be, a community to be part of, and that it enhances our community.”

Hungry Hearts is Saturday April 6th at the Delta hotels by Marriot Victoria Ocean Point Resort.

Veronica Cooper