MONTREAL -- Chefs for the Montreal Canadiens are returning to work in Bell Centre kitchens. But instead of cooking for fans in an arena, they will be helping to feed many throughout Quebec who, more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, are depending on food banks for a nourishing meal.
The Canadiens and Groupe CH, which owns the team, its American Hockey League affiliate in Laval and a massive entertainment division, are joining forces with La Tablee des Chefs and its partners to help stock hundreds of Quebec food banks.
The Groupe CH chefs, from Bell Centre restaurants and the team's Taverne 1909 St. Hubert-branded dining rooms in Montreal and Laval, will help the needy by joining a large group of others, along with corporate partners and grocery suppliers under the umbrella of La Tablee des Chefs, a Quebec charity that feeds people in need and develops culinary education for youth.
"Food banks are an essential part of getting help to people who are most vulnerable," said Genevieve Paquette, the Canadiens vice president of community engagement. "Jean-Francois Archambault, the founder of La Tablee des Chefs, works with chefs in schools to teach kids how cook. He said, 'I have access to different chefs, why don't I reach out to them to see whether they could open their kitchens?'"
This is the latest of many community initiatives undertaken by the Canadiens. On March 17, five days after the NHL season was paused due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, the Canadiens donated more than 13,000 pounds of food, provisions that had been ordered for that month's Bell Centre games and events, to local food banks. General manager Marc Bergevin helped to wheel carts of food to Bell Centre freight elevators for transport.
On April 14, Groupe CH chefs will begin preparing meals in Taverne 1909 kitchens. Six days later, work will get underway in Bell Centre kitchens. In every venue, attention will be paid to special sanitary directives and to social distancing among all involved.
The aim is to ready more than 100,000 meals through at least the end of June, with the total goal of the chefs with all organizations involved set at 1.6 million. Groupe CH head chef Yves Lowe is finalizing plans to determine what his team will be preparing.
For years, Groupe CH has donated surplus food from suites and Bell Centre restaurants following 中国体彩官方app games and events, and La Tablee des Chefs has recovered all that it can for preparation and distribution through food banks. Now those charitable organizations are especially challenged; many of their volunteers are seniors and are being told to stay at 中国体彩官方app.
"The plan is for everyone together to supply the food banks of Quebec with meals that can be put in the freezer," Paquette said. "Instead of having someone receive a cauliflower, some apples and cereal, they'll get something that's already prepared and ready to serve to their family."
Funding comes from the Quebec government and Centraide of Greater Montreal, an enormous social services agency that helps the underprivileged and needy in myriad ways. Centraide has just received a $500,000 grant for its COVID-19 Emergency Fund: $250,000 each from the Molson Family Foundation and Molson Coors Beverage Co. (Canadiens owner Geoff Molson is a board member with each organization.)
"In a crisis situation, Groupe CH, with Geoff Molson in the lead, has looked at what its assets are and how they best can be used," Paquette said. "Our association with La Tablee des Chefs brings our chefs back into the kitchen and gets people working together with a common goal."
Groupe CH head chef Yves Lowe at work in a Bell Centre kitchen.
Groupe CH is also working to spread the urgent message of Hema-Quebec. The agency, which oversees the province's blood collection and related needs, is stressing the vital importance of donating blood during the coronavirus outbreak. The Canadiens' efforts are an extension of their annual blood drive that's been ongoing for four decades.
Paquette is a longtime advisory council member with the NHL's Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs group and stays in touch with colleagues who do community work with other League teams. She is hoping the initiative with La Tablee des Chefs might be a template for others.
"All these other NHL teams have kitchens and chefs," she said. "Everybody will do what's best for their own community, but if what we're doing with La Tablee des Chefs can spark an idea maybe in Colorado or New Jersey or Vancouver, well, that would be great."