September 20, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH

An evening of decadent delights and culinary concoctions greeted diners at the inaugural Chefs Gala for the Cure on Oct. 27.
The event, which supported the Canadian Cancer Society, was held at The Holiday Inn Kitchener-Waterloo.
Guests were welcomed with a glass of rose champagne as well as a variety of hors d’oeuvres including empanadas and stuffed dates. Silent auction items tempted attendees as they filed into the ballroom, ready to sit down to a five-course gastronomic dinner.
Rogers TV’s Susan Cook-Scheerer and Mark Paine of the talk show Daytime, were the evening’s hosts and even took the audience behind the scenes via TV monitors. Segments included a look at the kitchen as well as interviews with the chefs preparing the delicious dishes.
Each culinary creation was prepared by a Fortis Property Holiday Inn chef, with emphasis on their respective region. With proceeds going to The Canadian Cancer Society, guests not only enjoyed an incredible meal, but also took part in live auctions for a dinner for 10 and a trip to Ottawa in between two of the courses.
Salim Mukadam, general manager of The Holiday Inn Kitchener-Waterloo, said the idea for the gala couldn’t have been realized without the support of other managers of Holiday Inn properties.
“The team wanted to do a big event but we couldn’t do it by ourselves,” said Mukadam. “As general managers of five different properties we always get together every year and this time we wanted to come up with an event that would promote our chefs, but would also tie to a charity.”
The Canadian Cancer Society is an organization that Mukadam said is very close to him and his staff. After losing their chief engineer two years ago to cancer, the hotel team decided to participate in Relay for Life in his memory. From then on, finding ways to give back to the charity has been a top priority.
“Being in a community and representing a facility like this, we need to give something back to the community,” said Mukadam. “It’s our duty and obligation.”
He said the most important goal for him was being able to make sure 100 per cent of the proceeds went straight to the charity.
“When you do one portion or one part people always think you are trying to make a profit off a charity. I don’t want to be known for that,” he said. “For me, if you’re going to do something, you do it 100 per cent.”
Having cancer survivors in his family, Mukadam sees the difference that charities can make.
“You don’t hear a lot of survivor stories but now, because of the research, you’re starting to,” he said. “It’s positive. There is a cure out there for it. There’s hope.”
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. As the largest national funder of cancer research in Canada, the society has a greater impact in more communities than any other Canadian cancer charity.
Karen Griffiths, manager of the unit office of the Canadian Cancer Society in Waterloo Region, said she was pleased with the evening’s turnout.
“For a first-time event, we were thrilled to see almost 200 people in attendance,” she said.
Griffiths said it is always important to bring awareness to the Canadian Cancer Society in order for them to continue to raise money for life-saving research and support services for people living with cancer.
Even something as simple as transportation to and from appointments is something that not everyone can afford. One in five cancer patients cannot even get to treatment.
“Just $50 will provide transportation for one cancer patient to a life-saving treatment appointment so that they can focus on getting well,” said Griffiths. “In effect the cost of the ticket to Chefs Gala for the Cure will help enable three patients to get to treatment.”
With all proceeds going to charity, the evening took in over $24,000 in ticket sales and donations.
“It is extremely rare for 100 per cent of the proceeds to be donated back to the society,” said Griffiths. “Usually with an event of this calibre there are significant logistical expenses, not to mention the cost of the meal.”
The fight against cancer has come a long way since the Canadian Cancer Society started funding research in the 1940s.  At the time, only 25 per cent of people survived compared to the approximately 60 per cent who are recovering today.
According to Griffiths, 75 per cent of research projects still struggle every year due to insufficient funds.
“The more money that is raised in the community means that we can increase funding to the best possible research projects and work towards finding a cure for cancer,” she said.
For more information about the Canadian Cancer Society in Waterloo Region, including upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, visit www.cancer.ca/waterloo or call the office at 519-886-8888.