Chef Steve Gonzalez Restaurants for Change

Q&A: Chef Steve Gonzalez, executive chef, Baro and chef ambassador, Restaurants for Change

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By Kavita Sabharwal-Chomiuk

Restaurants for Change (RFC), the one-night-only annual event with the goal to raise funds to support community food programs in low income neighbourhoods across Canada, is returning this year on October 18. The event will bring together some of the country’s best restaurants to help create change in Canada’s food system.

During this year’s Restaurants for Change, 92 restaurants across the country will be donating 50 to 100 per cent of their food sales during dinner service. These funds will help support good food access and empowering community food programs in low-income communities across Canada, helping push for a fairer and healthier food system. Since its inception, Restaurants for Change has raised over $600,000 to support local community food programs.

Restaurants taking part in RFC this year can be found in 19 Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Stratford, Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ottawa, Kingston, Montreal, Halifax/Dartmouth, and St. John’s. Event organizers hope to expand to more cities and restaurants for future events.

Chef Steve Gonzalez is taking part in Restaurants for Change for the first time this year. As the Executive Chef at Baro, one of Toronto’s 37 restaurants involved in the event this year, Chef Gonzalez is a champion of bringing South American cuisine and food culture to downtown Toronto. A former contestant on Top Chef Canada, Chef Gonzalez has worked in restaurants around the world for nearly three decades, including eateries in Toronto, Hong Kong and Miami, before opening Baro in December 2016.

RestoBiz spoke with Chef Gonzalez about Restaurants for Change and what inspired him to get involved.

1. How did you get involved in Restaurants for Change?

I’ve had a relationship with Nick Saul, president and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada, for some time now, and really believe in what the organization is doing. They asked me to be a part of it and I couldn’t say no.

2. How long have you been involved with Restaurants for Change?

This is my first year with RFC. I’ve been part of RFC’s sister event, Chefs for Change, for a few years now and decided to do more than just donate my time. (Chefs for Change is a five-night dinner series every winter that also raises money for Community Food Centres Canada.)

3. Can you tell us a bit about how RFC works?

We are offering our regular menu. It doesn’t matter what you order – all the food sales from dinner service in the restaurant on October 18 will be donated, and proceeds will be shared between the two Community Food Centres in Toronto (The Stop Community Food Centre and Regent Park Community Food Centre), and Community Food Centres Canada.

4. How has the event changed since its inception in 2014?

The concept remains the same year after year – you “dine out to do good”, supporting community food programs in low-income neighbourhoods. What has changed is that the event has grown a lot. It started out with about 25 restaurants participating in 2014 – now four years later, there are over 90, in 19 cities across Canada, from St. John’s to Vancouver. It shows just how passionate Canadians are about good food, and ensuring that everyone is able to access healthy food in dignified ways. There’s a national movement around this work that’s growing as a result of more chefs, restaurants and healthy food advocates getting involved.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the program or your involvement?

I think it’s a great opportunity for chefs and restaurants to give back to the community.  I love the tagline: Dine out, Do good.

Chefs and restaurateurs that are interested in taking part in Restaurants for Change next year can contact Danielle Goldfinger at 416-531-8826 ext. 240 to discuss how you can get involved. Diners can take part by visiting www.restaurantsforchange.ca to find a participating restaurant near them and make a dinner reservation for Wednesday, October 18, 2017.

Kavita Sabharwal is the editor of RestoBiz.

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