Executive chef Matt Kershaw chronicles his experience participating in the YWCA Hamilton's "Be The Recipe For Change" program. He likes it. And he thinks you should too. Since opening my first restaurant, I’ve always found it odd how much the hospitality business is expected to give to charity. Everyone knows — everyone — that restaurants typically don't make money and the ones that do aren't making all that much. However, that seems to stop absolutely no one from approaching restaurant owners for donations of gift certificates, money, food and catering. I get it — we make the good times happen. A $50 gift card to an accountant in Waterdown isn't all that desirable. Dinner for two or some sales rep ... err ... services? It's a part of the business and I suggest that new restaurateurs embrace it. And every so often a charity opportunity comes up that you will remember for the rest of your life.
My partner, Erin, makes things happen. I usually have no idea what is happening beyond next week, then she tells me. I was informed I had a charity function for 50 people the following Monday (admittedly she probably told me about it a month earlier but I may not be the best listener). In my head I'm thinking, “Charity dinner for 50?! We’re trying to open our third place this year and Erin has us giving away dinner for 50 people?!'
Then I got the details.
It was one of my favourite nights of 2015.
Be The Recipe for Change is a program at the YWCA that encourages local businesses and people to make dinner for a great group of women in their transitional living program — people who otherwise would have gone without. To me the idea of not having dinner is incomprehensible. I think about the debaucherous things I have been a part of and often provide and instantly feel guilty even considering not sharing my time, skill and money to make dinner for others.
You donate $300 to the YWCA and give them the list of ingredients you will require to make your dinner. Obviously, my goal was to use as little of the $300 as possible to allow them to offer further services to their clients. I wanted to make something that was cheap, delicious and loved by all. Gluten-free too, in case there were any hipsters. Shepherd's pie and a great salad. Done.
Erin organized a bunch of volunteers to come and help cook and serve the ladies that evening and it turned into a really fun event for us, as well. Low stress, great food, great feelings. Interacting with the guests was amazing; there is nothing more complimentary to a chef than someone coming up and sheepishly asking if they can eat thirds. Thirds! I felt like turning Italian and kissing her on both cheeks!
After meeting a lot of the guests, you realize most of these women just need a break or two to go their way and they will be in a much better place. Not eating is not going to help them. I can’t encourage you enough to get involved and help put food on a table for some deserving women.
Visit ywcahamilton.org/get-involved/be-the-recipe-for-change for more information