Food for Everyone: Jamie Kennedy on foodservice trailblazer Joshna Maharaj

Her Inspiring 2016: The only Canadian finalist for the Basque Culinary World Prize

First there was this Iron Chef-like cooking competition going on at a fundraising event. This was over 10 years ago. I was struck by how Joshna Maharaj, under the lights, under pressure, spontaneously created an interesting dish with the ingredients given in well under the prescribed amount of time. Equally interesting was her ability to simultaneously deliver a message to the audience of her determination to improve the quality of food we eat on a daily basis. This was a woman to watch.

I became acquainted with Joshna during her tenure as head chef at the Stop Community Food Centre. She invited me to come to the centre one day and cook with her to prepare and serve lunch for about 100 people. Joshna introduced me to this wonderful level of hospitality that I hadn’t yet experienced. I have followed Joshna’s career in the years since.

I have observed her at each place she lands as she betters people’s lives through active engagement in the process of bringing good food to the table, no matter where that table may be. Joshna believes strongly that good food is medicine. It felt natural for her to see what could be done to improve how food is prepared and served in hospitals. There is a parallel theme with her work at Ryerson University, where she challenged the existing food service for students to include healthier choices with foods that were procured locally and seasonally and prepared with care.

There are and will continue to be bumps in the road that hinder progress. Joshna has been unwavering in her commitment to improve food quality and level the playing field for access to good food.

Jamie Kennedy is a chef and pioneer of the farm-to-table movement in Ontario.

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