Top chefs raise more than $5M for University Health Network

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It was a one-of-a-kind private dining experience.

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And it raised more than $5 million for medical research for Toronto’s University Health Network.

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Top chefs from across the city and around the world volunteered their time to prepare and cook a series of private dinners as part of the UHN Foundation’s 19th annual Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival last month.

The festival pairs gourmet cuisine with the finest wine from around the world.

Dinner guests are served wine ahead of their gourmet meal as part of a fundraiser for the University Health Network at the home of Todd Halpern, UHN Trustee and UHN Foundation Board Member, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by George Pimentel / Handout /University Health Network

It is the top fundraising food and wine festival in the world, raising more than $132 million since 2005 to find future treatments for Alzheimer’s, heart failure, diabetes, vision loss and other ailments.

“Food and wine have an incredible uniting quality,” Julie Quenneville, CEO of UHN Foundation, said in a news release. “At the Grand Cru festival, they united community leaders, patients and medical experts to transform health care at the number one hospital in the country. When we are united, we have the power to unlock new discoveries that will save lives.”

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Casa Loma hosted a live auction on Oct. 27, the first of two fundraising nights, which raised more than $1 million.

The next evening, 16 top chefs – including Toronto’s Eron Novalski (Aria Ristorante) and Sash Simpson (Sash) – used their culinary talents to create a unique five-star menu that was paired with fine wines at 14 private homes across the city.


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Other top chefs who flew in for the evening included multi-Michelin-starred Daniel Boulud (Daniel) and Melissa Rodriguez (Al Coro) of New York City, along with France’s Emmanuel Renaut (Flocons de Sel).

“Philanthropy plays a pivotal role in funding medical innovation,” said Todd Halpern, a UHN trustee and UHN Foundation board member who founded Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival. “It is thanks to our donors that major medical advancements at UHN are within reach.”

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