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Inspiring Change Through the Power of Food

What do you get when you put 12 chefs with an appetite for change together on a farm? A Chef Bootcamp for Policy and Social Change.

What is this “Chef Bootcamp” exactly?

This past week, Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), in partnership with the James Beard Foundation and The New Farm, held a Bootcamp for Canadian chefs with the goal of developing their understanding of current challenges faced by the Canadian food system. The event took place at The New Farm in Creemore, Ontario, where surrounded by sunflowers, the participating chefs spent 2 days discussing food insecurity, social justice, the power of food and the changes they want to see in their communities.

The New Farm

The Bootcamp brought together Suzanne Barr, Sand + Pearl Oyster Bar, Prince Edward County; Mark Brand, Save on Meats, Vancouver; Judy Dempsey, The Table Community Food Centre, Perth; Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station, Toronto; Lora Kirk, Ruby Watchco, Toronto; Ben Kramer, Ben Kramer Catering, Winnipeg; Renée Lavallée, The Canteen on Portland, Dartmouth; George Lenser, Montreal; Joshna Maharaj, Toronto; Todd Perrin, Mallard Cottage, St. John’s; and Hugh Acheson, 5 & 10 and The National, Atlanta, GA.

Inspired by the James Beard Foundation’s long-running workshop, one that has been executed over 15 times in the United States, this inaugural Bootcamp was the first of what will hopefully be many.

“At the Beard Foundation we have learned that when it comes to advocacy for food-system change, chefs have the strongest most authentic voice,” said Mitchell Davis, Chief Strategy Officer of the James Beard Foundation.

“They are passionate, informed and pragmatic change agents to whom politicians and public alike listen. We are so excited to transfer our boot camp experience to Canada—the first time we have taken it outside the US—because food system issues are global issues and we all need to be part of the solution.”

We have it on good authority that the chefs went home feeling inspired and readily equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to become effective ambassadors and advocates for social change in our industry.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, because of course there was more to the weekend than thought-provoking conversation. After the first day of Bootcamp these 12 chefs stepped out of the classroom and into the kitchen to create a feast that represented a step forward in the movement for change, and the effect was not lost on us.


While we broke bread with other guests, the chefs joined us at our tables to share what they had learned during the first session – and if we thought we had been wowed by the meal, it was nothing compared to the conversation.

We were left with some powerful words from Nick Saul, President and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada:

“We need to see change throughout the whole system… it is about connecting the whole chain, the chefs, the farmers, the activists. Your kitchens can build the future you want to see.”

He wasn’t just talking to the chefs. We all have the power to make a difference.

If you’re interested in learning more about Community Food Centres Canada or about how to get involved, click HERE.

Here’s a few more shots from the night. We look forward to seeing more!


Kolapore Springs trout were slow cooked over coals by chefs Renée Lavallée from Halifax and Mark Brand from Vancouver.


Mitchell Davis, chief strategy officer of the James Beard Foundation, opens the night with a few words about the program.


The New Farm provided both product and inspiration for all the dishes – like this fresh pea, zucchini and cabbage salad.


Four of the twelve chefs from the bootcamp: Susan Barr, Todd Perrin, Judy Dempsey and Lora Kirk.


Three sisters, Indian style by chefs Joshna Maharaj and George Lenser.


There was a full dessert spread (including this Ontario peach pie!) by chef Farzam Fallah on behalf of Richmond Station.


The night ended with hot, spiked cider and campfire stories!