By Ivy Knight
Photographs by Phillipa Croft

Photographer, Phillipa Croft and I were lucky to attend the Stop Community Food Centre’s ongoing “Food For Change” Dinner Series held in the Green Barn.

Chef Chris Brown and Sous Chef Scott MacNeil prepared a six-course meal with help from paying volunteers. Eight people paid $100.00 each to come in to the kitchen and work for twelve hours. I don’t know many people who would pay to work a twelve hour shift so I asked one of the paid volunteers why they did it.

Steve Nimigon, a Senior Planning Administrator at Oshawa Car Assembly responded the next day with a thoughtful and elegant email. I will let him tell you in his own words:

“It was unlike anything I’d done before. Sure, I love cooking and playing in the kitchen, putting together a nice dinner for my wife or a decent spread for the guys when we’re playing cards, but never have I done anything like this. It’s like a spa day for some who loves food. Not because it is relaxing, but because I could get immersed in it and forget about the usual grind. That’s the only way I can describe it.

Then when you add in everything that Chris showed/taught/explained, I came out with a lot more than I went in with. He is a great chef and a solid teacher, but above that he is wonderful person. What Chris and The Stop are doing is amazing. Over time I hope we see more people take this type of progressive approach to battle hunger. To be able to do what I did yesterday and at the same time help out with The Stop is a complete win-win situation. I feel honoured to have been able to do so with Chris and have no doubt I will do it again.”

Steve has been back since and the entire program has been a huge success. Says Chris, “When I see someone completely petrified with fear knowing they have to produce a gourmet meal, then seeing that same person finishing the night with a glowing sense of pride, satisfaction, and confidence, that’s such a wonderful feeling.”

If you’d like the chance to cook with Chris Brown and Scott MacNeil get in touch with

We began with seared chimichurri scallops, then sweet potato soup with a quinoa croquette. A pork hock and sweetbread terrine with soft-boiled quail egg was followed by an intermezzo of bitter mate sphere with sour orange meringue.

The main course was a prime rib that was roasted in a wood oven by Steve Nimigon, served with blue cheese foam, onion confit and salsify puree. For dessert a dulce de leche cake with coffee emulsion and apple crisp.

Finally, homemade fortune cookies were handed out, instead of fortunes they contained heartening messages about what these dinners were accomplishing. Messages like “The net proceeds from the meal you enjoyed will provide food for a family of four for three days.” Or “this will allow one low income person to participate in a community kitchen, giving them the opportunity to learn how to prepare healthy food on a budget and interact socially with their neighbours.”

For those of you dying for adjectives and in case you’re wondering if it was any good- it was superb especially once you consider the eight novices in the kitchen. Maybe I should pay for the opportunity to work with Chris and Scott after all.

The Stop will be doing a very special dinner at Scaramouche on January 24th. Keith Froggett will join forces with the Stop’s chefs and volunteers to create a four course meal with all proceeds benefitting the Stop’s innovative work fighting hunger, building community and inspiring change. Please contact for more information.

Ivy Knight is a freelance food writer and cook in Toronto. She asks that you experience more of her tactless ranting at