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A Growing Team at Growing Chefs! Introducing Afton Bell

January 22, 2018

This January, Growing Chefs! welcomed three new Program/Volunteer Liaisons to our team. We’re thrilled to introduce you to Afton Bell. Welcome, Afton!

“I’m so happy to join Growing Chefs! So far, I’ve been stuffing (I hear my supervisor likes food puns) my brain with all there is to know about Growing Chefs! and meeting all the passionate people that make Growing Chefs! a unique and awesome organization.

I’ll start by saying that I’m a small-town kid, I grew up in the Kootenays and my family always had a garden. As a child I can remember marveling at the giant zucchinis, eating fresh raspberries, and telling tales about how poisonous a rhubarb leaf is. When my husband and I moved to the Lower Mainland into a small townhouse (with no yard) I wondered how different life would be with no green space to call our own. It took some adjustment, but we noticed that what city dwellers lack in space they make up for with industrious creativity. Following the lead of our neighbours, we planted tomatoes, and lettuce on the deck and filled our front walkway with mint and cilantro. Nothing makes me happier than stepping outside to pick some herbs for dinner, it reminds me of home and makes dinner taste great.

When my daughter entered preschool, we were very excited that her school had plenty of outdoor space and a large garden that the kids worked hard to plant, maintain and harvest. In the summer, the kids are invited to visit as often as they like, care for the garden and stuff their pockets with whatever is ready. Spending time at the garden became a highlight of our summers. Watching my daughter’s eagerness to learn about the garden and her amazement at a humble vegetable like a potato renewed my interest in food and encouraged me to seek out more opportunities for my family to connect with food whenever possible. For us, this means growing some food, visiting the farmers market, preparing food together, and sometimes even making drawings of our food (see below for my daughter’s portrait of an especially pretty potato).

Today, we are full-fledged city folk, but we have still found plenty of space in our life for growing, preparing and eating delicious fresh food. I am keenly anticipating meeting the kids and volunteers that will be working with Growing Chefs! this spring and learning more about how they connect with food in the city!”


Portrait of a potato

“POTATO” by Penny



Ready? Set! Dine Out!

January 19, 2018

dine outIt’s that time of year: Dine Out is here.

Over 300 restaurants in Vancouver are gearing up for two of the most intense weeks of their year. Before 2002, this time of year was generally a ‘slow’ one, but the Dine Out Festival has since changed these 17 days into prime time to show off Vancouver’s amazing food scene.

Today, the festival brings together hundreds of chefs, wineries, craft breweries, suppliers and more for 17 days of dining, food-forward events, and experiences designed to give local and visiting culinary enthusiasts the opportunity to taste the best flavours of the city.

Within the restaurant industry Dine Out is both revered and feared. Each establishment carefully crafts a set menu that shows off their specific corner of the culinary world and is then presented with the challenge of delivering an identical, unforgettable dining experience to a full restaurant, sometimes four times over, every night. A real tour de force!

T’is the season to be kind to your server, be in awe of skilled chefs, and menu-hop to your heart’s content. Where will you go this year?

Ready? Set! Dine out!

Here are some of our favourite menus this year:

In the $20 category:


A different main dish every day of the week! From Timber beer steamed mussels to a Sunday Bison Roast, you’ll want to be here every day.

In the $30 category:


How to make BC product taste like a little restaurant in Italy? These folks know. Nona’s meatballs? Local Farro risotto? Chocolate cake with pistachio? Yes, please.


Edible Canada

With a staggering six appies and six entrees to choose from, you’ll need to bring five friends to sample this delicious corner of New Canadian cuisine.

In the $40 category:


With offerings like Kimchi Forbidden Rice, Chamomile Spiced Cheese Pumpkin Soup, and Hay Smoked Cavatelli, they take vegetable-forward Dine Out to a whole new level.


Homer Street Cafe and Bar

With a beautifully elegant menu, Homer St. is open for lunch and dinner! Don’t forget the BC wine pairings, to go with your chicken rillettes and your baked gnudi.




Volunteer Feature: Amy McCabe from BC Place

December 15, 2017


Our chef volunteers are not all chefs! Case in point, Amy McCabe, Marketing & Communications/Business Coordinator for BC Place:

How did you hear about Growing Chefs?

Jaydeen from the Growing Chefs! team contacted me to request that the BC Place roof light up green for Giving Tuesday (we light up different colours to promote events and awareness campaigns).

What made you want to volunteer?

I loved the idea of Growing Chefs! – working with children, teaching them such important lessons about healthy food, urban agriculture, and sustainability, plus learning from the other volunteers! I had wanted to volunteer for a while and Growing Chefs! seemed like the perfect fit!

What lesson/activity was your favourite to deliver?

I really enjoyed the lesson where everyone brought in different vegetables and the class tried them all! Some kids were so brave – trying raw garlic, celeriac, raw fennel etc. It was pretty impressive and awesome to see the kids so enthusiastic about veggies they’d never heard of!

How do the kids react to the chefs being in their classroom?

The kids were super welcoming! They treated us like celebrities each week! It was heartwarming to see that they were so eager to participate in each lesson and learn what we had to share with them.

What did YOU learn from your volunteer experience?

Not working in the food industry, it was a bit daunting signing up for this, but that didn’t matter at all! Working with the other chefs was great because I learned so much from them – picked up a few tips on growing veggies in my apartment, and also learned a few new vegetable names! I was lucky to work with a vegan chef, so I also picked up a few tips from him on living more of a plant-based lifestyle (thanks, Chef Matt!).

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a volunteer?

DO IT! Growing Chefs! is an amazing organization and program. The team makes everything so easy, and each lesson is so well planned – it’s foolproof! For minimal time commitment, the reward is huge.

Thank you so much Amy for your time and talent!

Click here to sign up to be a volunteer!

Donor Profile: CIBC

December 14, 2017

CIBC_CR_2C_RGBWe have been receiving the generous support from CIBC since 2015. We recently caught up with Chris Stuart, Executive Director- Equity Trading- World Markets, to chat about their generosity, and to find out more about CIBC Miracle Day.

Chris, thanks so much for spending this time with us. What about Growing Chefs! resonates with CIBC?

CIBC recognizes the value in investing in youth. We think this program is a great to help children learn and make smart decisions about their diets today and in the future, as well as provide them with a unique set of life skills (gardening basics, cooking, menu planning etc.)

Do you have a garden at home? What do you like to grow?

We grow all of our own spices at home; rosemary, basil, bay, thyme, and most recently started growing kale.

What is your favorite vegetable to eat?


Do you enjoy cooking? What’s your favorite recipe to enjoy as a family?

We love to cook! we are so lucky here on the West Coast as we have access to fresh seafood, as well as amazing produce from the Valley. Shopping for the ingredients is sometimes the best part!

Do you have a favorite Vancouver restaurant, and why?

Again we are so lucky in Vancouver with such a diverse population we have access to so many great choices. Whether its Asian, European, Latin and so many other cuisines. But right now I am enjoying a lot of the sustainable food (Farm to Table) restaurants.


What is CIBC Miracle Day?

CIBC Miracle Day is a proud tradition that has helped to improve the lives of millions of children since it began in 1984. Every year, on the first Wednesday in December, our CIBC Capital Markets team and CIBC Wood Gundy Investment Advisors donate their fees and commissions to help kids in need. Last week, on December 6, we had another amazing day and numbers are still being tallied but we are confident it was another great year!

Why is Miracle Day important to you and your team? Who’s involved?

Miracle Day is important to everyone at CIBC but also to our clients. It is a chance for us all to channel our efforts and give back directly to our community. Obviously, we rely on our amazing client base to send us their business on Miracle day so they are very much the biggest part of it but we have involvement from our Wood Gundy Group, Investment Banking, commercial banking and many other groups within CIBC.

Why is Miracle Day a fun day at work?

Miracle day is many of our staffs favorite day- it is a chance to see where some of our efforts go. We have guest celebrity VIP’s but more importantly, we get to showcase organizations such as Growing Chefs! and hear in more detail about some of the amazing things they are up to. Without these interactions, we would not get to hear stories about how the kids get to create their own recipes (always wanted to do this), and how the program even seeks to engage families in their home to participate in menu planning and nutrition.


Thank you CIBC for the incredible support! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Bon Appétit Aux Élèves

December 11, 2017

It’s December, and we’ve suddenly found ourselves at the end of yet another season of growing and learning in the classroom! This fall season our Intermediate (grades 4-7) Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program was delivered to 9 elementary school classrooms in the Greater Vancouver area, by a small army of committed volunteers.

In South Vancouver, École Henderson’s grades 3/4 classroom is under the spirited leadership of Ms Adèle Anctil. Chef Anna, Chef Olivia, and I (Growing Chefs!’ Chef Selma) were welcomed into this bustling classroom for 7 lessons, all in french! Together, we went on a gardening and culinary adventure from seed examination, through science experiments, knife skills, and stock making, through to an all-out stirfry cooking competition, judged by the most important people: the school administrators and a mom.


At the end of our program, we leave Ms Anctil’s classroom with a tear in our eye, and a mind full of memories. After 7 lessons, this classroom is full of vegetable ambassadors. There were talented culinary geniuses, avid veggie scrap users (we saw some bags of scraps being taken home for stock), amazing pea growers, vegetable skeptics turned champions, we know all about food miles now, and one of the students, Piper, was even on the Global TV Morning News holding a giant tomato!

I’d like to share another beautiful story from the École Henderson classroom:

Camilla and Go Broccoli, Go!


During our fourth Growing Chefs! lesson, the Chefs had asked the students to choose an ingredient that they wanted to represent in a fun balanced meal-making game. On her rounds through the classroom Chef Selma noticed that Camilla had written “Go Broccoli Go!” on her card. “

You must really like broccoli, huh?” she asked. “Yes”, said Camilla, “I never used to, really, but then you told us about broccoli, and now it’s my favourite”.

Now how did that magic transformation come about? Can a vegetable really go from “ew” to “woo!” You can see for yourself in this video.

In the video Camilla explains that she never used to like broccoli, as it was a green thing and she didn’t like eating green things. But then, in our second Growing Chefs! lesson, we talked about all the different parts of plants that we eat, and Camilla found out that broccoli is really just hundreds of little flowers. And since she really likes flowers, she went home and asked her mom for some broccoli (I have on good authority that her mom didn’t think broccoli went very well with sushi, but got it for her anyway). Now, lo and behold, broccoli is one of Camilla’s favorite vegetables.

Written by: Selma van Halder, Program Coordinator, Growing Chefs!

Giving NOW Means Giving MORE

December 7, 2017




Photo credit: OSG Photography
Thanks to local businesses Eight SolutionsPan American Silver CorpLyra Growth PartnersSea Cider Farm & CiderhouseShauna Gold Personal Real Estate Corporation, and Whole Foods, we are able to DOUBLE THE IMPACT of all new Champion Radish Club monthly donors* who sign up on or before DECEMBER 31, 2017!
Champion Radish
The sustainability from monthly donors allows us to plan ahead and implement our hands-on programs more efficiently. Join our Champion Radish Club and keep our gardens growing! Your monthly gift will provide a consistent, reliable, and predictable source of funding to help us give more kids hands-on experience growing and cooking their own healthy food. It also lowers administrative costs. Giving now means giving more!
  • Your monthly donation of $10 doubles from an annual gift of $120 to $240!
  • Your monthly donation of $25 doubles from an annual gift of $300 to $600!
  • Your monthly donation of $50 doubles from an annual gift of $600 to $1,200!
  • Your monthly donation of $100 doubles from an annual gift of $1,200 to $2,400!
Why choose monthly giving?
  • Your gift is easy, secure, and green—a monthly donation saves paper, postage, and energy!
  • You ensure your gift has the greatest possible impact!
  • You will get special updates from the classroom from our participating students!
  • You get to be a Champion Radish. (A most delicious type of radish!)
Donation commitments can be made online using a credit card (via Canada Helps) between Wednesday, November 1, 2017, and Sunday, December 31, to be eligible for matching.


On Giving Tuesday, Tuesday, November 28th, BC Place was lit up green for Growing Chefs!
Photo courtesy of the CKNW traffic helicopter.

* up to a maximum determined by local business donations


From Farms to Forks 8

November 1, 2017

FFTF-logoOn Sunday, October 1st we held our eighth annual Harvest Kitchen Party, From Farms to Forks! An amazing group of local chefs, growers, and vineyards helped to welcome 150 guests to the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts to enjoy great food and drink and help raise funds for Growing Chefs! The event was made possible by our incredible sponsors: Mission Hill Family Estate and Whole Foods Market.

We invite you to relive the evening with us thanks to our wonderful photographer, Jeremy Dyson of Dyson Media. Additional photos provided by Michelle Sproule of Scout Magazine. More photos are available on Flickr.



The night kicked off with a glass of Bella Wines‘ bubbles and amazing appetizers from Curious Oyster, The Arbor, The Three Brits, and Provence Marinaside and long-time supporters Jennifer Belbeck from Musette Caffé, and Nathan Lowey at Dosanko, served by our wonderful volunteers.


The wine for the evening was generously donated by Mission Hill Family Estate. With each dish, guests enjoyed a carefully crafted wine pairing highlighting some of the province’s best vintages. See the full list of pairings here.


After a word of welcome from our hosts at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, our emcees Margaret Gallagher and Fred Lee, and our very own Merri Schwartz (Growing Chefs! Founder & President) and Helen Stortini (Growing Chefs! Executive Director), we heard from the people our programs are all about: Growing Chefs! students.



The teaching kitchens were opened, and guests were free to roam and enjoy the beautiful creations made with ingredients from local farms and purveyors like Glorious Organics, Hazelmere Farms, SOLEFood, Klippers Organics, Two Rivers Specialty Meats, North Arm Farm and more.


Dishes were inventive and beautiful, like the Lamb Birria Taco from Gilles L’Heureux at Los Cuervos, the Rabbit Terrine with carrots three ways from Pier 73‘s Edison Antejos and Morgan Lechner, and the Red Kuri Squash and Duck Croquette from Tableau Bar Bistro‘s own Tret Jordan. Guests had the opportunity to meet both farmers and chefs, and enjoy the wine pairing with every dish. See the full menu here.


Throughout the night, guests had the opportunity to bid in our silent auction and participate in a live auction, full of amazing products and services made available by our friends in the community. Some guests got pretty competitive!


Dessert was the cherry on top! Dishes were created by Soirette, West, and The Lazy Gourmet, plus a delicious platter featuring Stoney Paradise grapes, honey from Hives for Humanity, crisps from Terra Breads, cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, and vegan cheese from Blue Heron Creamery. We couldn’t have imagined a better pairing than with the Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Vidal Icewine.

It was a wonderful night, over $40,000 was raised for Growing Chefs!, and we hope to see you there [again] next year!

SAVE THE DATE for #FFTF9: Sunday, October 14, 2018


A big THANK YOU to all guests, sponsors, volunteers, chefs, growers, and anyone else who made the evening possible!

Belle’s Roots

November 1, 2017


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When Belle’s family moved to Canada, they found they weren’t eating vegetables as frequently, or eating the same kinds of vegetables as often as they did back in Israel. According to Danica, Belle’s mom, Belle wasn’t as interested in the fresh vegetables she once ate on a daily basis.

Belle’s experience with the hands-on Growing Chefs! program helped change that. Each week, Belle would eagerly await the chefs’ arrival for the Growing Chefs! program. When the students gathered together on the carpet for their “Garden Talk”, her hand  shot up first, eager to take part in the discussions about cooking, gardening, and healthy food. After her lessons with Growing Chefs!, Belle went home and began to request the vegetables her family ate back in Isreal.

“My daughter looks forward to it all week!” said Danica. “She’s loving eggplant and fennel again! The program really helped us connect to the healthy fresh diet we were used to in Israel.” Danica continued, “I felt the program encouraged health and expansiveness around food, as well as kitchen skills and confidence. We have incorporated lots of new produce to our shopping list. We can’t wait to have a garden when Belle’s brother is old enough not to pick everything!!”

Belle, now a Gr. 3 student, participated in the Growing Chefs! program this past spring in Mme Podwinksi’s Gr. 1/2 class at Sir James Douglas Annex. Back in April, Belle sat with her fellow students on the carpet of their classroom. Trying to keep still until their turn, the students shifted and wiggled in their seats buzzing with excitement, each student clutching a vegetable in their lap. It was Lesson 3 of the Growing Chefs! program–Vegetables from Around the World. In this lesson, the kids are asked to bring a vegetable from home to do a Vegetable Show and Tell. They make a short presentation to tell the class what they brought, why they brought it, and one special fact about their vegetable.IMG_0193

The classroom’s chef volunteers–Chef Leela, Chef Jaydeen, and Chef Olivia took turns calling on the students to come up and share their vegetable story. When they called on eight-year-old Belle, her big blue eyes lit up with anticipation. Belle hadn’t just brought one vegetable to share, she and her family had prepared a salad they ate often in Isreal, before immigrating to Canada. She was eager to share her salad and her culture with the class and the chefs. In Belle’s words, “Growing Chefs is fun and tasty. I learned to cut with a knife safely and make really good salads. Also, I learned that Growing Chefs has the biggest carrots I’ve ever seen!”

Support more kids like Belle with a donation to Growing Chefs! From November 1 – 28, all new monthly donations will be matched! Click to learn more.


Israeli Salad
1 English cucumber or 4-Lebanese
2-3 firm but ripe tomatoes depending on size (3 Roma)
Half an onion red/yellow
2 tbsp olive oil
Half a juiced lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Dill or Cilantro are also added depending on the accompanying meal

All vegetables should be cut into very small uniform cubes. Mix in the bowl and serve right away fresh. If you pre-make the salad add the lemon and salt before serving to prevent pickling.



From Farms To Forks 8 thank you!

October 4, 2017


Photo credit: Dyson Media
*Stay tuned for our photo essay to relive the night’s culinary adventures.

From Farms to Forks 8 was another incredibly delicious night! We hope everyone enjoyed the evening as much as we did, and all of us at Growing Chefs! send a huge thank you to everyone that helped make the night a success! Each year, our founder and chair, Merri Schwartz reads a thank you poem at the event. In case you missed it:

The Tale of From Farms to Forks Eight

It’s hard to believe, it’s From Farms to Forks Eight!
The time has flown by—to that all can relate.
One thing hasn’t changed, it’s this site and this school.
Julian, Darren, and students, you guys bring the cool.

And while on that subject, Yves and Sylvia, a pleasure,
We’ll see you each fall when we gather together.
This year we’ve been sponsored—how grateful we are!
Whole Foods, Mission Hill your help goes so far.

And speaking of help, Mission Hill jumped in like heroes,
Without wine for the pairings, attendance could have been zero!
And beer! Moody Ales, thanks again—pints for all!
We know when you’re here, chefs will answer the call.

Our Masters of Ceremony, Fred and Margaret, hello!
You charm us through dinner and put on a great show.
Our Board of Directors, you guide and advise,
Your wisdom is deep and your hearts a huge size.

To Fio Designs, and the lovely Fiona,
Thank goodness your name rhymes with our printers, Artona.
To WestJet for donating our sweet raffle prize!
And our media sponsors for catching your eyes.

They’re Edible Vancouver, Daily Hive, Scout and Olivia,
Our 49 volunteers—how ‘bout that piece of trivia?
Our fine bushel sponsors, who donate many-an-item,
No tea, bread, cheese, honey, and more things without ‘em¹.

I could not continue without first thanking chefs²,
We call and we ask, and then they do the rest.
Our growers³, we honour your hard work and your toil,
Our plates are filled up from what you pull from the soil.

To everyone who donated to our killer silent auction,
You guys, place some bids, you’ve got quite a few options.
Our grade two and three students from Strathcona who’ll present,
Isabelle and Anthony, your speech makes this event.

To Nick Bedford, you’re hired! So many tickets you peddled!
To SVP and Les Dames—we’re grateful. It’s settled.
Our staff, that’s just obvious, but in addition—their families!
They volunteer, purchase tickets, but it’s not an anomaly…

We get support from so many, it’s truly amazing.
It makes my heart warm, I think what I am saying,
Is thanks to each one, we’re so glad you showed up.
That’s the last line, now let’s toast. Raise your cup!

‌‍¹ Thank you to Namasthé Tea Co., Terra Breads, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, and Blue Heron Creamery.

² Thank you to our chefs and restaurants Richard Boucher at Curious Oyster Catering Company, Chef Rob Clarke at The Arbor, Chef Nathan Lowey at Dosanko, Chef Jennifer Belbeck at Musette Caffé, Chef de Cuisine Sheldon Maloff at Provence Marinaside, Chef Alvin Pillay at The Three Brits Public House, Bartender Jonathan Dennis at Forage, Executive Chef Karan Suri at ARC at Fairmont Waterfront, Chef de Cuisine Jesse McMillan at Campagnolo Roma, Chef Ryan Bissell at North Arm Farm, Executive Chef Stewart Boyles at Culinary Capers Catering and Events, Chef de Cuisine Christopher West at Homer St. Cafe, Chef Gilles L’Heureux at Los Cuervos Taqueria & Cantina, Executive Chef Brendan Robson at The Observatory, Executive Chef Morgan Lechner and Executive Sous Chef Edison Antejos at Pier 73, Chef Leanne Lalonde at pilgrimme, Chef Tret Jordan at Tableau Bar Bistro, Executive Sous Chef John Pavle at The Lazy Gourmet, Pastry Chef Maxime Sander at West, Pastry Chef Shobna Kannusamy at Soirette, Chocolate Maker Shelley Bolton at East Van Roasters.

³ Thank you to our growers and producers Out Landish Shellfish GuildKlippers Organic AcresUBC FarmCrisp OrganicsSapo BravoSOLEFood, Hannah Brook Farm, North Arm FarmHelmer’s Organic FarmFresh RootsOkanagan Spirits, Stoney Paradise Farm, Two Rivers Specialty MeatsCentral Park FarmsGlorious OrganicsHazelmere Organic Farm, Galiano Sunshine Farm, Sapo Bravo, Parsons Farm Market, and MGM Sales and Distribution.

From Farms to Forks 8: Introducing Bartender Jonathan Dennis from Forage

September 22, 2017

Instead of another chef, today Growing Chefs! is introducing the mind behind the featured cocktail for our gala: Jonathan Dennis of Forage. He’ll be treating us with a blend of Okanagan Spirits’ Aquavit, freshly-squeezed lime juice, simple syrup, and locally-grown dill. Jonathan is a new volunteer and looks forward to one day stepping into the classroom to share his love of combining sustainable ingredients to make something even more mouthwatering. He decided to join us because our mission statement aligns with his goal of tying people to their food in meaningful ways.

Jonathan didn’t start out as a bartender; he began working at Forage running food four years ago. He was entranced by the alchemy by which bartenders put together some of the unlikeliest ingredients to make something new and refreshing that pairs beautifully with the restaurant’s local, sustainable meals. He especially likes working with spirits because of their versatility, which is why he chose Aquavit.

IMG_0647Jonathan(Mixologist)ForageThis Scandinavian spirit is finally catching on in North America, particularly the west coast. It’s flavoured with caraway or dill, making it a perfect match for the crisp sprig of dill that garnishes the featured cocktail. The result is a light beverage that toes the line between sweet and savoury, making it as versatile as the spirit that is its base. When a more neutral base is needed, Jonathan recommends vodka, which is also excellent for infusing if you’re interested in developing a flavoured spirit of your own. For more tips and tricks on creating a perfectly-balanced cocktail, say hello to Jonathan at our gala! Fresh Roots is providing the dill for the event!

From Farms to Forks: A Harvest Kitchen Party, is on Sunday, October 1st at 5:30 pm. It’s a 19+ event because there will be a wide selection of cocktails and BC wine and beer to enjoy. This event is unique because rather than sitting down to enjoy a gourmet meal, our guests are invited to go to various tasting stations where more than fifteen chefs and local growers are present to answer questions. In addition, there will be a silent auction and a raffle. The event takes place at the gorgeous Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. You can buy tickets here. Please contact if you have any questions.

We look forward to enjoying this one-of-a-kind night out with you!

Photo Credits:
 All photos taken by Olivia Sari-Goerlach of OSG Photography

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