Guy Fieri helps Chef’s Challenge for a Cure raise nearly $1 million.

I realize that I’m leading with the “lede” rather than burying it here, but it is:

At the beginning of Saturday’s Chef’s Challenge for a Cure it was announced that $2 million had been raised since Chef’s Challenge For a Cure began three years ago. By the end of Saturday, another three quarters of a million dollars had been raised in support of breast & ovarian cancer research and education at the Samuel Lunenfield Research Institute and The Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital.


Additional $25k raised at lead up events to this year’s big event.

How the event works:

The Chef’s Challenge for a Cure is an exclusive culinary fundraising event. Participants raise a minimum of $2,500. The top 50 fundraisers earn the opportunity to cook live on stage in one of three battle rounds under the guidance of Food Network Canada hosts. A day of mentorship and pre-battle challenges leads into the big evening event. The celebrity chefs act as coaches but aren’t allowed to do any of the cooking on stage.

An international Food Network Celebrity chef acts as host. The first year’s Host-Chef was Gorden Ramsay. Last year’s was Bobby Flay. This year it was Restaurant owner and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri.

The Chefs, minus Lynn

The Chefs, minus Lynn

This year’s Chef’s Challenge for a Cure team leaders: Mark McEwan, Chuck Hughes, David Rocco (David Rocco’s Dolce Vita), first year Chef’s Challenge winner Lynn Crawford and event newcomer Chef Michael Smith.

The host celebrity chef creates a five-course menu that is cooked by the hotel’s kitchen staff and served to the spectators. The battle itself is Top Chef Quickfire/Iron Chef style: Mystery ingredients that are revealed for each of three courses. A panel of judges determines the winner.

The judges

The evening:

Cocktail hour was called for 6-7, dinner at 7. I arrived fashionably late, thinking “6-7” means 6:15/6:30 – and had a wardrobe conundrum. Not content the first time I put on what I’d chosen to wear, I changed a number of times before putting on my originally planned outfit. Then thought I was having a hosiery issue.

A $20 taxi ride later, and I was up in the VIP Lounge trying to avoid photobombing people having their photo taken with celebrity chefs. Meanwhile, as usual, I didn’t get anyone to take MY picture. There are few photos of me all “dressed up”, but blogger-fundraising Yvonne had one taken of the two of us with her camera at the end of the night.

Official Social Media Reporter

Official Social Media Reporter

Place setting with my name

Place setting with my name

Guy Fieri’s enthusiasm and charisma lit up the room. He began the evening by telling the room of 400 about losing his sister to skin cancer nearly two years ago. That personal connection got him to Toronto, and he was able to film Diners, Drive-ins and Dives while he was here (I knew that he was going to be filming at The Stockyards, even when Toronto Life called that “unconfirmed”, and kept the secret). Guy seemed genuinely impressed with Mount Sinai and this event

The event was amazing. When I got home, high on adrenaline, I wrote this on Facebook:

Had such an amazing night at the Chef’s Challenge benefitting Mt. Sinai Hospital. Huge thanks to Ivy Knight for getting me in as a Social Media Reporter. It was seriously one of the highlights of my year, and the year is almost over. Can’t wait to blog about it.

It truly was an honor.

The mystery ingredients:

  • Sushi-grade ahi tuna
  • beef tenderloin
  • Phyllo dough

The auction

There was a silent auction and a live auction auctioneered by emcee Bob Blumer that was full of excitement and surprises. For example:

Chef Chuck Hughes kept his Movember moustache one more day and auctioned off the right to shave it on stage (a knife was wielded but I didn’t see it used). The winning bid: $5,000.

The “Ultimate foodie package” on the auction list kept growing with Guy’s encouragement and excitement. The man was born to be an auctioneer. Originally listed as dinner for 8 at each of the 5 team leaders’ restaurants, Guy prodded and pressured the celebrity judges to add more to their prizes. Guy himself added a visit to his New York restaurant. There was a bidding war. The energy was intense with excitement. People were on the edge of their seats or as we’d say in Yiddish, sitting on shpilkes (pins and needles, tenterhooks). The winning couple bid $25,000.

Guy Fieri & mustached Chuck Hughes.
Image credit: Caroline Aksich for Toronto Life. (See link below.)

The Charity

I like so many things about this charity:

  • Unlike other charities who are in the business of being a charity, Mount Sinai is a hospital. I believe in supporting then directly.
  • By supporting the place that does the research and treatment I don’t have to support “pinkwashing“.
  • As a hospital, Mount Sinai also leads research and treatment of other forms of cancer. Regardless of where it’s located in the body, cancer is basically the same thing: Cell mutation. Cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors that invade nearby parts of the body. A cure for one form is a cure for all.

The winner

In the end, there can be only one.

Third place: Chef Michael Smith
Second place (by 1.5 points): Chuck Hughes
Winner: Lynn Crawford for the second time in 3 years.

The real winner: Mount Sinai Hospital.


Watch my blog for information on upcoming events.

Related articles and blog posts

Jessica Allen’s event recap at MacLean’ Read the Storify feed. See a photo of Guy & Michael hanging out with rapper Drake later in the evening.

Participant and blogger Yvonne did a recap in two parts. Here’s part 1, here’s part 2.

Toronto Life’s photo gallery + Q&A with Guy Fieri.

Were you there and did you blog about it? Add your link below.

Photo album:

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