Ottawa’s Food Fusion Serves Up a Delightful Evening

Photos by Emily Cordonier and Dave DiUbaldo

Excellent food and some friendly competition proved to be a winning combination at The United Way’s inaugural Food Fusion event. Ottawa’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute hosted the creative fundraiser, which pitted five corporate teams against one other in a “Master Chef-like” competition.

In the days leading up to Food Fusion, six “celebrity” chefs mentored the five teams. Each team was assigned a different chef, who then selected a unique dish their team would recreate on the night of the event. The chef-mentors who volunteered their time and expertise were Chef Joe Thottungal from The Coconut Lagoon, Jesse Bell from The Albion Rooms, Kyle Fewtrell of Tulips & Maple, Jon Szavas of Fauna and Bar Laurel, Julie Vachon of Le Cordon Bleu and culinary consultant Chef Ilan Dagan.

Attendees of the event were treated to a lively atmosphere at the culinary school’s historical Sandy Hill mansion.  Guests could watch all of the action in the kitchen as it was being livestreamed for everyone to enjoy. Members of the competing teams bustled in and out of the kitchen bringing out small servings of their signature dishes for everyone to have a taste. There was plenty of food to go around. In addition to the competing dishes being handed out, guests also enjoyed signature cocktails, canapes and charcuterie.

A highlight of the evening was the impressive cooking demonstration courtesy of Le Cordon Bleu. A highly talented chef spent much of the event molding incredibly delicate sugar creations. The final product was a true work of art!

After guests had been given ample time to taste all of the competing dishes and pick their favourite, it was time for the judging. Guests were able to cheer their support for their favourite team, but ultimately it was the chef-mentors who would have the final say. The competing cooking teams were representing the following firms: Edelman, Gowling WLG, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, and Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP (who put in two teams). In the end, it was Chef Joe Thottungal and his team from Gowling WLG who won for best dish.

The winning entry was a delicious and colourful dish comprised of braised duck, butternut squash and chutney. After the winner was announced, Chef Thottungal shared the strategy for his winning team.

“I gave one component to each person from the team so they could focus on that and only that. One guy did the duck, one guy did the butternut squash…it worked out very well!”

It was an evening full of big smiles and full bellies. The President of the United Way Ottawa, Michael Allen, spoke about the success of the night.

“What I’m particularly pleased about is that we found a way to combine the passions that they have for cooking and foodies together with the good causes that they also believe in.”

Allen says he expects this year’s Food Fusion event will be the first of many more to come.

In the end, around $18 000 dollars was raised by the event. All of the proceeds will be used by United Way Ottawa for strengthening counselling and support programs for those dealing with mental health and addictions challenges.