Serving dinner for 500 people may seen daunting to some, but for Erica Tiedemann it’s a welcomed challenge.
Every Monday to Friday, the 27-year-old Victoria chef rolls up her sleeves in the Our Place Society kitchen, and gets to work coming up with new and creative recipes to cook for the 400 to 500 people who come for dinner on a daily basis.
The society purchases main ingredients for its meal program, spending most of its money on protein and dairy, however, things such as vegetables are donated on a daily basis. Tiedemann’s task is to take the donated ingredients, which often include ground beef and peppers, and come up with a nutritious meal.
“It’s really a wonderful opportunity to be creative . . . It’s exciting, you never know what you’re going to get when you come in on Monday,” said Tiedemann, who has worked in various kitchens over the past decade, and is currently completing her apprenticeship at the society in order to earn her Red Seal.
“I’m just more interested in serving this group of people than providing a luxury item.”
In the past, she’s made Shepherd’s pie, macaroni and cheese, chow mein, stir fries, pork souvlaki, and coconut curry for Our Place residents.
Now, she’s taking on a new challenge during the society’s fourth annual Hungry Hearts fundraiser next week.
As part of the event, which is the society’s largest fundraiser of the year, five of Victoria’s top chefs are tasked with creating a small bite dish, which participants can sample and then vote for their favourite. This year’s chefs include Castro Boateng from Castro Boateng, Mike Dunlop from Vista 18, Takashi Ito from the Inn at Laurel Point, Tyler Paquette from Fishhook and Nicholas Waters from Toque Catering.
Tiedemann, along with fellow Our Place chef Emilie Sefton, will not be competing with the other chefs, but will be teaming up to create a basil risotto that evening.
Adding two local chefs into the mix is something the society has been talking about over the past few years and this year it’s finally coming to fruition.
“It’s really important to introduce the business community to what Our Place does and the quality of chefs that we have,” said society spokesperson Grant McKenzie.
“When you’re living on the street, the one thing you don’t have a chance to get is variety. The kitchen takes that as a challenge and they (chefs) want to make sure people get very nutritious meals, but also that variety.”
Last year’s Hungry Hearts fundraiser raised more than $117,000 — a number organizers hope to match or beat this year. Funds raised go towards the society’s meal program, which has seen a sharp increase recently, serving roughly 100,000 more meals a year for the past several years.
Hungry Hearts takes place Wednesday, Feb. 15 beginning at 5 p.m. at the Inn at Laurel Point. It also includes live music, silent and live auctions, and a raffle. Tickets are $125 and are available by calling 250-413-3161.