Kids from the Regent Park Community Food Centre were surprised on Sunday when their seemingly average cooking class turned into a taste testing event, complete with a visit by one of Toronto’s basketball stars.
After the made spring rolls and iced cupcakes at the Loblaws near Carlton and Church streets, the kids were asked to name their favourite sport and favourite athlete. Most said basketball, and one said it was Serge Ibaka, unaware that the six-foot-ten Toronto Raptor was walking in behind them.
To cheers and applause, Ibaka took the stage and sat with the kids. Donning a blindfold, Ibaka tasted four dishes, ranging from parsnip soup with caramelized pears to pancakes with Quebec maple syrup.
“Food means everything to me,” the Raptors centre told the group. “Before I’d go to bed, I used to pray, ask God the next day, so I could have some food. Just prayed in the morning and then, you know, all I was thinking about growing up was where can I find where to eat, or something to eat.”
Ibaka said he is grateful now not only to have enough food for himself, but that he can feed others too.
As for the kids, they were grateful to meet one of their heroes. Marwan Ahmed said he was “really surprised” when Ibaka walked in, adding he “never knew he was going to come in.”
Ibaka, also known as Mafuzzy Chef, has his own food show on YouTube where he serves interesting dishes for his teammates and friends. But as for “Canadian flavours,” Ibaka says to him it’s less about the taste of the food and more about the people who make it.
“The cultures here, the people who make the food, I think that to me is one of the most important. It’s something I’ve been enjoying since I’ve been here in Canada.”
The event was held in support of the Regent Park Community Food Centre, an organization that supports low-income residents with education and skills training when it comes to growing and preparing food.
“We teach the kids, like the food not only gets from the store- food grows in the ground, so it’s like from the garden to the table,” Ashrafi Ahmed, who works with the centre, told CTV News Toronto.
Loblaws and President’s Choice Children’s Charity donated $30,000 to the Regent Park Community Food Centre. The company says organization is one of eight centres funded by the charity.