Vital People: Hungry Hearts fundraiser serves up a delicious way to give back

Vital People: Hungry Hearts fundraiser serves up a delicious way to give back
WatchHungry Hearts is Our Place's biggest fundraiser of the year and as Tess van Straaten shows us, it's a delicious way to give back.

Battering a piece of fresh halibut and then carefully setting it into the fryer, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel‘s executive chef prepares a new mouth-watering masterpiece.

“I wanted to have a nice crispy dish that we could use because battered halibut is something very popular in Victoria,” says Kreg Graham, executive chef at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.

The daring dish — which has pickled plum in the aioli and Singaporean slaw — is part of Our Place Society’s Hungry Hearts fundraiser, which is currently underway.

“I really hope it brings the attention that Our Place and Hungry Hearts deserves. It’s been an extremely challenging year, challenging couple of years and it’s great to see our industry rally together,” says Madone Pelan, general manager at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.

The annual Hungry Hearts campaign — which is Our Place’s biggest fundraiser of the year — usually sees chefs face-off at an event. But this year, with COVID, it’s a little different.

“We decided to go back to the restaurants. This is a way of giving back to drive traffic to them. We understand we’re not the only ones challenged during COVID so we’re trying to give back to the businesses that have been so supportive of us,” says Steven Seltzer of Our Place Society.

It’s been an incredibly challenging period for the hospitality sector — and all of the restaurants taking part have been impacted by the COVID pandemic.

“We’ve been put through something that we’ve never experienced before and it’s been a real dig deep moment for an entire industry, food and beverage,” says Andrew Moffatt of the Heron Rock Bistro.

But despite the challenges they’ve faced, the 14 restaurants taking part all wanted to give back.

“More than ever, what has been highlighted to us is the importance of community and it was our community that supported us through the darkest days,” Pelan says.

“It’s important to me to make a difference in our community, to make the city a better place for all of us to live,” adds Graham.

This is the 8th year for Hungry Hearts, which has raised $900,000 for Our Place over the years, and the need is greater than ever this year.

“Basically, this is life or death. We’re one of the bigger safety nets in Victoria and if we weren’t there right now during COVID, I don’t want to think about what would happen,” says Seltzer.

Money raised this year will help with employment programs…as the ‘land and sea’ contest has restaurants serving up either a mushroom or halibut dish to see who will win the coveted culinary competition.

“We’ll take top three … if we’re on the podium, we’ll be very happy,” says Moffatt.

You can vote in the foodie fundraiser on the Times Colonist contest page until Sept. 7. To vote click here.

The winner will be announced during the Hungry Hearts Virtual Gala on CHEK TV Sept. 18.

The hour-long broadcast on CHEK and livestream will cooking demos, a special performance by the Juno Award-winning band Dear Rouge, and stories of strength and determination from people who have faced poverty and addiction.

People can also bid on a huge selection of auction items at until Sept. 20th.

For more information on Hungry Hearts 2021, click here.

Kreg Graham, the executive chef at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, has prepared a new mouth-watering masterpiece — fresh halibut. The daring dish, which has pickled plum in the aioli and Singaporean slaw, is part of Our Place Society’s Hungry Hearts fundraiser. (CHEK News)

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Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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