Takashi Ito from the Inn at Laurel Point is one of six chef's who will be competing in this year's Hungry Heart's chef's competition

Hungry Hearts brings chefs together for a good cause

Feb. 27 marks a special time of the year for Kunal Ghose.

Feb. 27 marks a special time of the year for Kunal Ghose.

Not only is it a time when he feels like he’s giving back to the community, but it also marks the moment he came up with the idea for one of his most popular dishes at Fishhook Restaurant.

Two years ago, Ghose participated in the Hungry Heart’s chef’s competition, an annual fundraiser for Our Place Society.

As part of the competition, chefs were tasked with coming up with their own unique soup or sandwich dishes. Attendees then had the opportunity to try each dish and vote on their favourite.

Ghose’s dish was inspired by his mother’s cooking — tuna melt with caramelized broccoli smash with local cheese and tuna.

“I was just trying to come up with something a little bit more out of the box in terms of soup and sandwich,” Ghose said. “I was trying to create the mouth taste of tuna casserole that my mother used to make and have that on a piece of bread . . . People always ask how I come up with things, I guess it’s just in my blood.”

Shortly after the competiton, Ghose opened Fishhook Restaurant and the tuna melt continues to be the most popular dish on his menu.

But this year, the seasoned Hungry Hearts chef is hanging up his cap and taking a more behind-the-scenes role. He is responsible for organizing the competition and this year’s theme is small bites to give chefs the freedom to create any dish.

Chefs include last year’s Hungry Hearts winner Nicholas Waters from Toque Catering, Jason Clifford from Table 21, Brad Holmes from OLO, Takashi Ito from the Inn at Laurel Point, and Morgan Wilson from the Fairmont Empress.

“I’m so blown away by everything that they do (at Our Place). It’s been one of my favourite times of the year to do something to give back,” Ghose said of the fundraiser. 

The competition is the main event of the third annual Hungry Hearts fundraiser. Last year, the event raised roughly $180,000 for Our Place, an amount organizers hope to match or beat this year.

“With the fundraiser, we bring to light the inner city working poor, elderly, mentally and physically- challenged people, addicted people and homeless people . . . The needs of Victoria are changing and Our Place is changing with it,” said event chair Charlotte Salomon, citing the new My Place Transitional shelter on Yates Street that accommodates 40 homeless people and provides them with showers, hot meals and a warm place to sleep at night.

The event also includes a live auction, in which organizers hope to raise $50,000 for Our Place to launch an employment program to provide life and job skills in April.

Hungry Hearts takes place Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Inn at Laurel Point from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $125. For more information visit ourplacesociety.com.