Saturday's Harvest Dinner, organized by the Rotary Club of Innisfil at the Lakeshore Library, was more than a great meal, highlighting locally-sourced produce, and a fundraiser for the Rizzardo Health & Wellness Centre in Innisfil.
It was also a celebration of community partnerships.
Everything was donated, from the vegetables provided by Mary Toich’s farm on Hwy. 89 and Lakeview Gardens in Lefroy, to the grass-fed beef of Noble Farms in Creemore and the Stayner Meat Packers, honey from Dickey Bee Honey, and dinner rolls baked by Richard Ratte.
Chef Max King donated his time and expertise to prepare the dinner of Squash soup with maple infusion, Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and roasted vegetables, and a dessert of Crème Brulée with candied crabapples and honey.
Kell Farms, Suite Success, and Hardie & Co. all contributed to the evening, and members of the Rotaract Club of Barrie, a service club for young adults ages 18 to 30, were the servers for the evening.
“We are a small club,” said Innisfil Rotary past president Barb Baguley, “but we have help tonight… for the very best ‘first annual’ Harvest Dinner.”
“We’re here celebrating an abundance of food,” said emcee Krista Richards, but also sharing food with the community.
“The Innisfil Food bank is low on food. The shelves are almost bare,” Richards said, noting that the table decorations – pyramids of non-perishable food items – would be going to the food bank at the end of the evening.
Richards praised the Innisfil Rotary Club for its many community projects, from food drives to the Quiet Santa evening for kids with autism, and fundraisers for the Rotary Trail and the Rizzardo Centre. “They support almost every single event in this town,” she said.
She also had praise for the community partners who contributed to the inaugural dinner, especially Chef Matthew King.
An award-winning chef recognized by the World Association of Chefs, King entered the culinary sector at the age of 14, as a dishwasher at a family-owned restaurant and café. He began his chef’s apprenticeship at the age of 17, straight out of high school.
Now 28, he has been an executive chef in Barrie, Midland, Innisfil and Muskoka, and recently launched his own catering service in Barrie, on Bell Farm Road, catering to weddings, funerals, corporate events, and creating dishes with locally-harvested foods in season.
His philosophy, “The root of a happy, healthy community begins with food,” was the perfect fit for the Harvest Dinner.
As the Mojo Trio played jazz in the background, about 70 diners enjoyed the locally-sourced dinner, and bid on silent auction items donated by the community.
One of the highlights: the live auction of a mystery “bag of money,” filled with donations from the crowd. Winner of a spirited bidding war with Rotarian Al Gilchrist was Jason Reynar, past Rotary club president, whose overbid of $1,000 won him the bag.
“That’s how you make money in rotary,” said Gilchrist.