It’s obvious that food and chefs go hand in hand, so when Agriculture For Life saw the opportunity to partner with a group of some of the best chefs in Alberta, it was a no-brainer.
“Being able to work with the Calgary Chefs Association (CCA) is an absolute thrill for us,” says Luree Williamson, CEO of Ag for Life, a charitable organization that strives to increase awareness of the importance of agriculture in Alberta. “These folks know food, and we’re all about where that food comes from, so it’s a perfect match.”
The CCA is the Calgary branch of the National Culinary Federation, and brings together chefs from across the city who work in partnership with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic Board of Education to mentor and inspire high school student cooks working to gain early credits toward a variety of programs at SAIT.
Calgary restaurateur Steve Szostak, President of the Calgary Chefs Association, says the association was looking for a new partnership that would provide necessary opportunities for aspiring chefs to complete their curriculum, and Ag for Life was the natural choice. The students will provide support to Chef Leighton Smyth and his team at Heritage Park during Ag for Life’s annual Harvest Gala on Oct. 25. The gala is the charity’s biggest fundraising event, gathering approximately 400 people from the agriculture industry, and is well known for serving amazing food.
“We’re super excited,” says Szostak. “The Harvest Gala gives our students a chance to see how a large-scale reception is run and all the moving parts. It’s a prerequisite to apply for the Association’s Apprenticeship Scholarship, Sponsored by Sysco, but they’re also looking forward to being part of the overall experience and working with Chef Leighton as well.”
Williamson agrees, saying Ag for Life is excited to have the students on board.
“It’s wonderful to be able to have these young people join us for the Harvest Gala,” she says. “It’s always a ton of work behind the scenes and to have the students lending a hand will be a huge help for us. At the same time, I think being exposed to that part of a large reception will be valuable for them, as well.”
Williamson and Szostak both agree that the event will be just the first of many opportunities for the two organizations to work together.
“Ag for Life is on the verge of launching a major new agricultural awareness campaign called Know Your Food,” says Williamson. “It’s vitally important that people know where their food comes from, and Alberta chefs understand that better than anyone. ‘Farm to table’ isn’t just a marketing slogan, it’s a chain of information for consumers who want to know more about the meal that’s on the table in front of them.”
Szostak says the CCA is also eager to explore more opportunities in the future, both for the association and the students.
“I think by building this relationship, we can get to the point where we’re able to create ways to get young people more involved in the industry and take it to the next level,” he says.