Home cooks from around the world made a comfort-food favourite on Family Day in support of Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank.
The Chef Upstairs, a cooking studio in Toronto, hosted the world’s largest virtual cooking class on Feb. 21, in partnership with EJSE Studio in support of Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank.
The virtual event was led by Chef Julian Pancer and co-hosted with TV personality Jennifer Valentyne. More than 200 families participated from more than 17 countries to make the perfect pantry risotto.
When deciding on the dish concept, “the intention with these recipes is for items easily sourced from the food bank, the concept of risotto is where you can easily find pantry-safe ingredients,” Pancer said.
This is the second year for this event, and they aim to host it annually.
‘Choose your own adventure’ dish
Ingredients like canned peas and carrots, garlic and rice are among accessible items from the food bank.
The classic Italian rice dish was also made to be a “choose your own adventure” for the event, so participants could raid their pantries for whatever fresh or dry ingredients they wanted to incorporate in their risotto.
The event was MC’ed by Laura Hampshire, and the entertainment for the event was provided by Canadian singer-songwriter Marshall Dane, who sang few songs to entertain participants.
International award-winning magician and mentalist, Mike D’Urzo of Mega Magic, showed card game tricks while participants worked on their risotto.
“That was the idea, to get people excited about setting a world record, and get people excited about cooking with others from around the world. The intention is to add value to this experience,” Pancer said.
The Chef Upstairs also donated 100 bags of the recipe ingredients to the food bank to support those in need. The recipe was printed and donated by Boss print.
Although the virtual world event is based in Toronto, Chef Pancer said encourage people to donate to their local food bank since food insecurity is everywhere.
‘The numbers are atrocious’
Raising money is a big aspect of the event, but raising awareness was the main purpose, says Chef Pancer.
Neil Hetherington, Chief Executive Officer of Daily Bread Food Bank, also joined the event to raise awareness and fundraise.
“The numbers are atrocious,” he said of the increase in food-bank users. “Typically, before the pandemic, we saw about 55,000 clients per month; that number this month is estimated to be 139,000 clients — almost a three-time increase in the city of Toronto food bank usage.”
Last year, the Chef Upstairs was able to raise almost $50,000 in funds. This year, they aim to raise $100,000 to for the Daily Bread Food Bank.
The initiative comes after food banks users in Toronto reached an all-time high of 1.45 million in 2021. The Chef Upstairs will continue their charitable initiatives under their new foundation, FedUp.