Founded in 2005, Grand Cru is a city wide event, where individuals host intimate dinners in their homes, prepared by local and global culinary icons, and paired with the best wines from around the globe. Since its inception, the event has raised $7.5 million for the Toronto General and Western Hospital foundations.
This year’s slate of chefs included New York’s Daniel Boulud and Scott Conant (of Toronto’s new Scarpetta restaurant), plus a brigade of Toronto’s top toques like Massimo Capra of Mitsura; Mark McEwan of North 44, Bymark and One; Jamie Kennedy of Jamie Kennedy Event Catering; David Lee of Nota Bene; Victor Barry of Splendido and Ryo Ozawa of EDO.
Todd Halpern, of Halpern Wine Enterprises, who was chairman of the event, said its an opportunity to celebrate the best in food, wine and science. “Grand Cru brings together an exceptional group of people who are the best in their fields,” he said of the celebration, which this year, benefits the work of Dr. Michael Fehlings and the Krembil Neuroscience Centre.
Halpern was also quick to note the other benefits of the affair. “It’s not just about how much money we raise, it’s also the people we meet, that perhaps weren’t involved in something like this in the past,” he said at a Grand Cru precursor event he hosted at his home the Friday before the main event. “It spreads the word about the event and the research that we support, and that’s something all Canadians get to take advantage of,” he added.
Staying true to Grand Cru’s reputation, the Friday dinner, which acted as a precursor to the weekend events, featured vaulted wines like Palmer, Ausone, Lafite and Haute Brion, food stations by chef Marco Zandona of Via Allegro and appetizers by chef Martin Kouprie of Pangea restaurant.
Kuprie, a long-time supporter, says that getting involved six years ago was an easy decision. “Todd is an old friend, and when he started the event, he approached me and explained the concept, and that he’d be raising money for medical areas that often get overlooked, so we’ve been involved right from the beginning,” said Kouprie, as he prepared tempura-battered, Ocean Wise-certified abalone. “For us chefs, the event is a lot of fun, too. It’s an opportunity for a bunch of us from all over the place to get together. There are so many positives that come out of this event.”
Positives indeed. According to event organizers, this year’s edition, designed as a pared-down version of last year’s massive 35-dinner affair plus auction, raised $1 million for the Krembil Neuroscience Centre.