It all began with a Facebook post on February 1st 2018. Shoel Davidson used the #BellLetsTalk platform and campaign in displaying immense amount of vulnerability and courage through a social media post sharing his ongoing challenges surrounding mental health, and sharing the compassion and willingness to help others experiencing the same. It was this post which inspired the beginning of Mind The Bar.
Shoel Davidson, Successful Vancouver-based Restaurateur, and hospitality industry veteran of 20+ years, started as a dishwasher, and worked his way through every aspect of the restaurant scene. “I’ve battled with my mental health throughout my life, including struggling with depression & suicide during my teens, depression & anxiety as an adult, as well as often resorting to alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with my mental health throughout my hospitality career up until a few years ago.”
In 2017, Davidson recalls a series of events in both his personal and professional life which resulted in heightened depression and anxiety levels – leading him to consider taking an extreme measure – his own life. “It was here that I realized I wasn’t okay and that I needed help.” Davidson continues by saying, “I was (and am) very fortunate to have an amazing circle of loved ones, friends and family around me that supported me in this. However I had a lot of difficulty finding the information, resources, and professional help I needed.”
This moment of realization and self-awareness prompted the start of a journey that led him to be inspired to do something about it, and make a difference towards others sharing similar experiences as himself – especially those working in the industry. Davidson also expresses that at this time he was eager to investigate and find “alternatives towards a more positive lifestyle within the industry that didn’t resort or revolve around the normalized substance abuse that persists within it.”
“I brought the seed of an idea to my business partner, Christina Cottell, which I’ve opened both Gringo Gastown (6 years ago) and Dixie’s BBQ (3 years ago) with. She was incredibly supportive and urged me on.
This led to my starting a conversation among a select few friends and peers within the hospitality industry, many of whom would later become the founding members of Mind The Bar, about my vision and how change might occur.”
“The enthusiasm and synergy around what we were trying to do was truly special, and we quickly built the initial framework of the Foundation as well as short and long-term goals we hoped to achieve” says Davidson. The goal of Mind The Bar is to operate as an intermediary in connecting people wishing to seek support such as through counselling within the mental health sector.
The intent is to “establish a vetted shortlist of mental health professionals who are interested in working with the Foundation, who offer an affordable sliding scale fee, and [whom] ideally have some background or understanding of the hospitality industry.” Fast forward only a few months after the initial brainstorms and discussions had commenced, and the Mind The Bar Foundation was officially recognized under the BC Societies Act in September 2018. Now registered under the BC Societies Act, the Foundation’s intention is to work with and provide information and assistance to everyone within the hospitality industry throughout British Columbia.
“Mental health is something that affects us all, regardless of where we live, and it is therefore our goal to assist in establishing associated division of the Foundation within each district that will be overseen and governed by local representation. Surrey has a massive and proudly diverse hospitality community that we are already beginning to work with at a grassroots level” Davidson explains.
Russell Breweries staff, Jimmy Darbyshire and Doug Embury, had known Davidson, and his business partner, Cottell for a few years as they had been an account of the brewery with their Gringo restaurant. The Russell Breweries pair heard about the launch of the Mind The Bar project and saw it as an opportunity to help. “Jimmy & Doug were incredibly supportive of the initiative from the beginning & were very eager to get involved however possible” explained Davidson.
“They (Darbyshire and Embury) approached Christina and I shortly after our launch event about creating a beer specifically for raising funds for Mind The Bar. After speaking with the Board of Directors I told them that if they were going to make an officially collaborative beer it would have to be (a) low-ABV/alcohol, to assist with reducing excessive drinking within the hospitality community, (b) inexpensive, because we wanted it to be affordably available to everyone no matter how limited their budget may be, and (c) very drinkable, because we wanted it to be easily enjoyed by everyone. The boys at Russell took these ‘guidelines’ and their MTB Belgian table beer was the end result.”
When asked why they chose this particular beer for the collaboration, Russell Breweries Darbyshire explains how “the “Table Beer” was very fitting as that is where a lot of conversation happens, at the table.
It drove home the idea that we need to talk about the problems our industry is currently facing.” “I think it speaks for itself that they knocked it out of the park on this one, and the sales tell me I’m not wrong” says Davidson about the low alcohol alternative that is helping bring awareness and raising money.
To learn more about the Mind The Bar initiative, check out their website here. Although the website is currently under construction due to the mass amount of information, resources, and hours required to go-live, you can still find information on certain resources and information on how to get involved. Although an official ‘go-live’ date cannot be confirmed at this time, Davidson confirms that they are working as hard as they can in order to launch a functional ‘Phase I’ stage of the website very soon.
The goal is to have the initial launch assist people in better navigating pertinent resources and information such as requesting assistance in finding mental health professionals, and information on the Foundation itself – how to volunteer or become a member. “The website will be constantly evolving as we gather more information, resources, feedback, and as the Foundation and mental health awareness within the hospitality industry grows” explains Davidson.
What’s most amazing about the evolution of this Foundation in such a short time is that all of the “the recognition and reputation surrounding Mind The Bar has spread solely by word of mouth. Initially, within the immediate Vancouver hospitality community following our launch in June 2018, then gaining international attention after our first place win in the 2018 Tahona Society’s Collective Spirit Competition” recalls Davidson.
In addition, Davidson adds that the amount of popularity and support the Mind The Bar Foundation has received has “a lot to do with the overall and increasing readiness of the hospitality industry, and society in general is to acknowledge the subject of mental health, and the desire to breakdown the stigma surrounding it.”
“When we first began speaking about some of the struggles we expected to encounter introducing Mind The Bar to the Vancouver and BC based hospitality industry, we believed it would take us at least a few years to convince our peers and the greater restaurant community that not only was there an egregious problem with mental health, addiction and workplace harassment within our industry but that it was long overdue to change the mentality and perspective around it.
What we discovered is not only were we wrong about how many were ready to listen and get involved in making a positive change but the amount of praise we received for ‘finally’ doing something about it” says Davidson. Russell Brewery began with two brothers in 1995, back when craft breweries were next to none. As one of the original 10 craft breweries in BC, they put Surrey on the map as being an early leader in the craft brewery scene.
Now, Russell Brewery has not only successfully passed the test of time over two decades, but has continued to grow and prosper amongst the 200+ breweries province-wide! They even underwent a rebrand over the past two years and freshened up and diversified not only their branding, but their beer offerings as well! “We have since traded hands a few times [since launching in 1995], but our mission is still the same – to offer innovative and exciting Craft Beer to this ever-evolving market” says Darbyshire.
“Although presently, Mind The Bar official membership is still limited to its original founding members, we have dozens of individuals who have been volunteering their time and assisting us with numerous facets of the Foundation as we continue to build the initial framework necessary to best utilize the skills and enthusiasm of new membership. Something we will be doing within the immediate next few weeks is the preparation for our upcoming AGM” says Davidson.
Davidson continues, “There’s still a long road ahead but something I’m most excited about it this next chapter when we can finally open the doors to new members.”
As for the Russell Brewery beer collaboration – you may be wondering, will this beer be continuously sold or is it a campaign with a closed-frame of time? Darbyshire says “We would love this to be an ongoing campaign. I think there is lots of opportunity to build on what we have already started.” And with an additional $6,000+ aimed to fundraise through the collaboration prior to year-end, time to buy to support an amazing cause! Partial proceeds from each 4-pack and keg sold will be donated directly to Mind The Bar Canada. For a list of the 300+ locations currently carrying the beer (to consume on tap or to purchase), check out the list here.
To follow Russell Brewing Company, check them out on their affiliated pages:
Mother’s Day Brunch with Frozen BC Blueberries
Recipes Courtesy of the BC Blueberry Council
By: Brooklynn Doucette on behalf of the BC Blueberry Council
On Sunday, May 9th, it’s time to celebrate Mom! Whether it be over the phone, via Zoom, outside, or in-person, our Mom’s deserve to be showered with love this Mother’s Day.
Start Mother’s Day off right with one of these delicious breakfast or brunch recipes, all featuring frozen BC Blueberries! Make sure your frozen BC Blueberries are from BC by looking for “cultivated” or “high bush” “Buy BC” “Product of Canada” on the packages.
3-Ingredient Bc Blueberry Banana Pancakes
Commemorate mom and the frozen BC Blueberry season with this delicious 3-ingredient BC Blueberry Banana Pancakes. Kid-friendly and ready in under 15 minutes, these pancakes are perfect for an impromptu Mother’s Day brunch.
Yields: 4 – 6 pancakes
Prep time: 2 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
(Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Paleo)
- 1 ripe banana
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup frozen BC Blueberries
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
- In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe banana.
- Add in eggs and mix well.
- In a medium non-stick pan, heat vegetable oil (or any neutral tasting oil) on medium-low heat.
- Pour a large spoonful into the pan.
- Flip when it turns golden.
- Stack it up and enjoy!
Bc Blueberry Breakfast Smoothie
The perfect accompaniment to a Mother’s Day brunch is this BC Blueberry Breakfast Smoothie. This recipe can be enjoyed with breakfast or on its own. Make mom smile this Mother’s Day by bringing her a smoothie in bed!
Yields: 2 servings
- 2 cups (300g) Frozen BC Blueberries
- 1 cup (150g) Frozen banana, chopped
- 2 cups (500ml) Unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ cup (40g) Hemp seeds
- 2 tbsp (30ml) Almond butter
- 2 (48g) Medjool dates, pitted (optional)
- Add all the ingredients to a blender.
- Blend on high until smooth.
Bc Blueberry Chia Oat Milk Pudding
Looking for a vegan Mother’s Day brunch idea? This BC Blueberry Chia Oat Milk Pudding is the perfect recipe. Pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes, add your toppings, and serve your mom a tasty brunch treat!
Yields: 2 cups
Prep time: 3 mins
Cook time: 17 mins
- 1/3 cup of chia seeds
- 1 cup of oat milk (or your choice of milk alternative)
- 1/3 cup frozen BC Blueberries
Optional for Serving
- 1/2 tsp maple syrup
- 3 – 5 pieces of sliced ripe banana
- More Frozen BC Blueberries!
- In a medium-sized bowl, add oat milk, chia seeds, and frozen BC blueberries. Whisk to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (or overnight). The chia pudding should be thick and creamy.
- Layer with fresh or frozen fruit, compote, maple syrup (vegan), or honey, and enjoy.
- Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Phoenix Society Partners with JRG to Support Local Community
Finding new ways to encourage and support local communities and initiatives has always been at the heart of The Joseph Richard Group (JRG).
JRG is proud to announce its most recent partnership and community initiative with The Phoenix Society. Earlier this year, the Phoenix Society launched a Mobile Community Kitchen, Phoenix Flame BBQ Food Truck, that helps to serve free meals to those in need during this difficult time. The free meal service program was launched to serve those living on the poverty line as well as those who are unhoused in Surrey and beyond. The mobile kitchen allows the Phoenix Society to meet vulnerable populations where they are at, serving food in single-use recyclable containers in an outdoor setting where the guests can safely distance.
“I was fortunate to meet Amy from the Phoenix Society through her work in local media when she and her son participated in JRG’s 2019 annual charity event called One Night Out. We are truly grateful to reunite with Amy and the team at the Phoenix Society to continue supporting our communities.” – Ryan Moreno, CEO & Co-founder of Joseph Richard Group.
The Phoenix Flame BBQ Food Truck has the capacity to serve up to 100 meals per day, three to five times per week, but lacks the revenue to sustain long-term residency. Partnering with The Joseph Richard Group, the Phoenix Society can provide ongoing meals and continued support for the community. JRG will be renting the food truck for pop-up activations across Metro Vancouver.
“In just two months we have provided close to 2,000 free community meals to those most in need, but our goal has always been to find ongoing revenue to help sustain the program in the long-term. We couldn’t find a better partner than Joseph Richard Group; a company that has a clear desire to give back to the community.” – Keir Macdonald, CEO of Phoenix Society.
In 2020 alone, the Phoenix Society provided services to over 2,500 individuals through our Surrey-based Residential Substance Use Treatment, Supportive Housing, Employment, Extreme Weather Shelters, Community Corrections, Home Ownership and Outreach Programs. JRG is proud to partner with this socially-minded organization and work towards building a more stable community for those who are facing poverty.
To learn more about the Food Truck and how you can support this community initiative, please visit phoenixsociety.com for the official announcement.
The Best Late Night Takeout Spots in Surrey
By Manisha Singh
It’s almost midnight and I know exactly what you’re thinking. You want it, and you want it now. The only problem is, you’re sick of McDonalds, Burger King, and A&W.
You crave a delicious meal, exquisitely crafted by a real chef. But look at the time, what options could there possibly be? Especially in Surrey – a city where almost every sought after food option closes by 10pm.
However, to your surprise, there are a few hidden gems scattered across the city that are serving up fresh, sweet, and savory meals until wee hours of the night.
Luckily, I’ve done the hard work of finding them for you and selecting the best ones that I know will satisfy your taste buds!
1. Elvis Pizza
Since its inception over 4 decades ago, Elvis Pizza has been filling up tummy’s across the city! Located near Guildford mall, they serve gourmet pizzas featuring premium toppings and mouth watering homemade sauces.
Aside from pizza, Elvis also serves wings, pasta, and subs. Using only 100% real cheese, this pizza joint prides itself on both immaculate quality and freshness.
Elvis Pizza is open everyday until 3am, with the exception of Friday and Saturday where they stay open until 4am. You definitely have not tried pizza until you’ve had Elvis!
2. Desi Dosa Madras
Located on Scott Road, Desi Dosa Madras is a staple for authentic South Indian cuisine.
They serve a variety of Indian dishes, with their well respected chef, Chef Shijo, originally from Kerala. He shares his mastery of indian flavours by serving up fresh and uniquely crafted dishes to patrons across the city.
An absolute must try from their menu is the spinach and feta dosa! The cauliflower manchurian is also a crowd favourite.
Luckily, Desi Dosa Madras is open everyday until 4am, to satisfy all of your South Indian culinary desires!
3. Sahota’s Live Grill
Have you ever ordered a dish at a restaurant, but it wasn’t cooked to perfection? If so, that definitely won’t be the case at Sahota’s Live Grill!
Open until 3am everyday, they are not just any Indian restaurant, but one that embodies a unique concept that brings the cooking experience straight to your table. Their live grill gives you the power to cook your food exactly how you like it.
Along with a wide range of Indian fusion dishes, Sahota’s Live Grill also whips up decadent desserts and shakes. Whenever I visit, I absolutely have to taste their Kitty Katty shake! It is beyond delicious.
4. Donair Dude
Donair Dude opened its first location during the Winter Olympics in February 2010, and has been unstoppable ever since! They blend North American food culture with authentic Mediterranean dishes, to bring authentic Turkish donairs straight to your hungry mouths!
Donair Dude has plenty of vegan and vegetarian friendly options as well, including tabouli salad, dolmades, and falafel. Not to mention, they also serve fries and poutine.
Located in Cedar Hills, Donair Dude is open until 4am on Friday, 3am on Saturday, and midnight every other day of the week!
5. Non Stop Pizza
Non Stop Pizza truly has it all! They serve amazing comfort food in the form of Indian style pizzas and pastas, along with staple Indian dishes like butter chicken and samosas!
They are committed to serving the Surrey community, and have been for decades. Open everyday until 2:30am, Non Stop Pizza simply doesn’t stop bringing perfectly crafted dishes straight to your door!
And just like that, there you have it, Surrey’s best late night takeout spots!
Whether you are craving a juicy Turkish donair with a side of crispy fries, or a flavour rich pizza doused in homemade sauce, now you know Surrey has the perfect restaurant for you… And thankfully, they are open late!
Say Hello to The First Ever La Pizza Week!
You asked, We delivered! Introducing Le Burger Week
& La Poutine Week’s Latest festival- La Pizza Week!
The ever-so-popular “Le Burger Week” and “La Poutine Week” extend their reigns as Canada’s largest restaurant festivals with a new addition to the family – La Pizza Week presented by Saputo and delivered by SkipTheDishes!
From May 1st until May 7th, treat yourself to some fresh & cheesy goodness from hundreds of restaurants across Canada! La Pizza Week has partnered with SkipTheDishes and Saputo TM to increase its accessibility to restaurants and pizza-lovers across the country.
Get ready to partake in this interactive national community event that supports your favourite local restaurants and their mouthwatering pizza creations. This isn’t your average pizza party – this a national pizza party!
From May 1st until 7th, hundreds of restaurants across Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan will fire up the oven and get the dough rolling for a saucy celebration of La Pizza Week.
Each restaurant will be encouraged to create a unique pizza creation at a special price. Pizza-lovers across the nation will engage with the festival by visiting or ordering from participating restaurants and devour as many irresistible pizzas that their stomachs desire.
They will also be able to vote for their favourite pizza on www.lapizzaweek.com. This will allow restaurants to meet new customers and increase their awareness through their participation.
La Pizza Week’s overall mission is to support local restaurants by increasing their sales and awareness by participating. The festival is designed to encourage people to visit restaurants and to order for take-out or delivery!
As co-founder Na’eem Adam explains, “Coming after our biggest festival ever with La Poutine Week, we’re excited about the timing. The feedback we got from restaurants and fans was overwhelmingly positive and we wanted to contribute to our mission even more; help local restaurant communities.”
This inaugural festival wouldn’t be possible without the support of their partners. This includes La Pizza Week’s official cheese partner, Saputo TM, providing restaurants all over Canada with a variety of delicious cheeses, from classic Mozzarella, to fresh goat cheese, to their new, vegan-certified Dairy-Free Mozzarella Flavoured Shreds coming this spring, and more! Because what’s a pizza without Saputo TM cheese?
Additionally, La Pizza Week will be teaming up with SkipTheDishes, Canada’s largest and most trusted food delivery network, where any participating restaurant on SkipTheDishes will have their pizza available for pick-up or delivery through the Skip app or website.
Also joining La Pizza Week’s roster of partners is Anorexia and Bulimia Québec (ANEB), who has been collaborating with “Le Burger Week” and “La Poutine Week” for over 2 years.
The organization aims to fight and destigmatize eating disorders. Through La Pizza Week, part of the proceeds of every pizza sold at a participating restaurant will go to the organization; guaranteeing free, immediate, and specialized help to people with an eating disorder and their loved ones.
For the first time ever, you can attend the biggest pizza festival in Canada. Come get a “pizz-a” the action – this is a pizza party you do not want to miss out on!
To join the La Pizza Week community, please go to: www.lapizzaweek.com/registration/restaurant
To learn more about La Pizza Week, please go to: www.lapizzaweek.com
Joseph Richard Group Announces The Launch of A Virtual Food Court – Canteen
The Joseph Richard Group (JRG) made headlines with the announcement that the company would launch 100 ghost restaurants in a single day. Ranging in the style of cuisine, these restaurants included everything from Obey Poke to Sweet Tooth Desserts.
After a successful few years, JRG has decided to revitalize the brands for customer convenience with the launch of a single virtual location for all their cravings – Canteen.
Hungry customers can now order from all of their favourite virtual restaurants as a single order through the new virtual food court style restaurant, Canteen. Much like a mall food court, Canteen offers the ability to select multiple styles of cuisines and flavours, without having to visit various locations.
All items are purchased in a single order and delivered by one driver. The virtual food court will feature eight of the current JRG brands, including Master Chicken, STAK’D Sandwich Co., Obey Poke, and Sweet Tooth Desserts.
The new Canteen will also feature a new selection of JRG exclusive offerings, including the WTF Burger + Fries, a indulgent, cheesy pilot project from JRG Public Houses. The Canteen menu will vary based on the geographic location of each virtual kitchen and their unique capacity and resources to execute the dishes.
“As popular as our virtual restaurants have been, we realized that sometimes people, or an immediate family wants to order more than one type of cuisine. Rather than have our customers pay multiple delivery fees for food coming from various locations, we are bringing it all together with a food court inspired concept.” – Ryan Moreno, CEO and Co-Founder of JRG.
Canteen will be available across the Lower Mainland, serving customers in Surrey, Cloverdale, Langley, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Port Moody. Orders can be placed through Canteen on SkipTheDishes, DoorDash, or UberEats.
About The Joseph Richard Group
Joseph Richard Group (JRG) is a Canadian based collection of unique hospitality ventures owned by André “Joseph” Bourque and Ryan “Richard” Moreno.
The JRG team operates 25 establishments, constantly fine-tuning and elevating the dining experience for their guests. With top-quality offerings, an exceptional culinary team, and a genuinely kind-hearted service team, you can always expect the best!
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