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Top chef lends his talents to help launch new community-based food initiative

The Better Food Company offers prepared meals to the public, with funds going to help charitable food initiatives at HOPE House
Meals will be cooked in Hope House's commercial kitchen almost entirely from ingredients grown in their market garden at Ignatius Jesuit Centre.

A top Canadian chef will be lending his talents to help launch a new community-first food initiative.

The Better Food Company is an initiative launched by HOPE House in collaboration with the owner of The Community Company, Justin Chan. 

Every month, The Better Food Company will accept pre-orders for their made-in-Guelph meals that will be prepared in HOPE House's commercial kitchen using mostly ingredients grown in their market garden at Ignatius Jesuit Centre. 

This month’s meal will be prepared by Jonathan Gushue, a former chef at the Langdon Hall Country House Hotel in Cambridge and a chef on Iron Chef Canada in 2019.

Meals can be purchased online and the funds are then funnelled back into the HOPE House community farm and food market. 

“I think it's really neat that it's all part of this community food system. If you think about it, our community members can purchase a meal online  and the proceeds support the farm which then supports our community through the food market. And then to top it all off, the meals are made from the farm itself so I think it's really cool how this is like a full circle project,” said Chan. 

Starting Thursday, those interested can pre-order meals until Sept. 23. Chan said the meals are all either vegan or vegetarian and include seasonal meals such as carrot and almond chili, a root and vegetable curry and a beet and lentil stew. Detailed meal descriptions can be found here

Gushue will be producing the meals with the team of volunteers from Sep. 21 to Sept. 23. 

“We're only going to be making 300 of them so we're expecting them to sell out pretty quickly. They'll be ready for pickup on Thursday, Sept. 23,” said Chan. 

Proceeds from the meals will fund HOPE House’s community food work, which includes their food market, and their market garden. Chan said about 25 per cent of the meals will also be donated to the food market so families accessing the food market can also request the meals.

“Jonathan believes in this concept called sense of place cooking, which is the idea that we first start with what's around us. And from there, create a meal that matches the environment,” said Chan. 

Chan said Gushue was sent a list of all the fruits and vegetables the farm grows and created recipes entirely from the produce growing on the farm. 

“Obviously there's small exceptions like spices that don't grow in that area but for the most part, all of the produce for the meals were grown in Guelph so we're calling it a 100 per cent made in Guelph,” said Chan. 

“What I love about HOPE House is that everyone is welcome there. It reminds me of the European model of a restaurant where everyone feels invited. When I’m at HOPE House, I can feel the energy of the place and the people. Who wouldn’t want to catch a bit of that feeling? I’m flattered to be the first chef for The Better Food Company," said Gushue in a press release.