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:
Valentines Day Restaurants Perfect for Date Nights
As soon as February 1st hits, we’re suddenly surrounded by all things lovey-dovey. It’s expected and unavoidable. From TV commercials to grocery store chocolate displays – the pressure of Valentine’s Day is everywhere we turn. Taken or not, there’s no better time to bask in the glory of chocolate, flowers and restaurant promos. With special offers and events that all promise to make your Valentine’s Day one to remember, it can feel daunting to know where to begin when trying to plan the perfect love-filled celebration. Keep reading to discover the hottest specials that you and your loved ones should take advantage of to guarantee a good time this Valentines Day!
Are you planning on catching a movie or turning in early to catch up on your favourite TV series? The temptation to stay in to Netflix and chill is real, but we promise that this Valentine’s day special is worth getting off the couch for. Pizzeria Farina is a Vancouver restaurant that’s jazzing up their regular pizza and creating something a little more romantic for this special occasion. Head on in for a dine-in meal on February 14th to enjoy a heart shaped margherita pizza anytime after 5pm while quantities last!
If you’re looking for a more formal, romantic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, try taking in the sea-side sights and sounds in Steveston. The Steveston Seafood House is putting a pause on their regular dining menu to focus on featuring a special seafood menu handcrafted by their renowned culinary team. If you’re a seafood lover, you and your date can enjoy a 3 course Prix Fix for only $59.00! It doesn’t get more romantic than sharing a meal with the one you love in front of a beautiful sunset, does it?
If you’re hoping for more of a traditional V-Day dinner, feast your eyes on JRG’s date night offering. If you’re in need of a DD for the evening, The Italian is the perfect route for you. Their shuttle service will be running all night, so take advantage of their Bistecca Alla Fiorentina for 2! The decedent 32oz AAA Canadia Beef Porterhouse with a starter, salad and desert is the perfect 3 course meal, and it’s just $99! We suggest splurging on their suggested wine pairing while you’re at it, especially if you plan on capitalizing on their shuttle service.
Are you in the mood for vegan food? BeetBox Veg, a 100% plant based Vancouver restaurant, is hosting a vegan wine and cheese mingler for the plant-based foodies in your life this Valentine’s day! Enjoy a modern spin on the classic charcuterie board and purchase your $25.00 tickets now for a chance to enjoy their deliciously conscious comfort food.
Whether you’re spending the evening with your pals or going all out on a fancy date night – delicious food and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand. We recommend taking advantage of these local restaurant promotions that are right at your fingertips. Let loose and indulge in a memorable date night – you deserve it.
How One Family Brought the Flavour of Colombia to Vancouver, BC
Aji Gourmet Products – The Story of How One Family Brought the Flavour of Colombia to Vancouver, BC
Aji Gourmet Products is a Vancouver company that offers delicious and healthy condiments, dips, sauce mixes, and marinades. Owned and operated by the Gonzalez Biagi family, Aji is as rich in family history as it is in authentic South American flavors.
Back in 1999, the Gonzalez Biagi family moved to Canada from their home in Colombia. A culturally rich country, Colombia is known for its heartwarming people, festive celebrations, and exceptional cuisines, including a traditional condiment known as Aji. Upon their arrival to Canada, the Gonzalez Biagi family (Dyana, Carlos, and their kids Allison and Nicholas) settled into their new home in British Columbia, making sure to bring a recipe for Aji with them.
The Gonzalez Biagi family continued to enjoy Aji in the privacy of their family home until one day Dyana was asked to bring guacamole to her hockey party. However there was one BIG problem – she had never made guacamole in her life. With no time to find a recipe, Dyana decided to add some fresh aji into a bowl of mashed avocados and brought it to the party. Much to Dyana’s enjoyment, her dish was met with an overwhelming response. The other guests loved it – they had never tasted anything like aji before.
It was no surprise when Dyana began getting frequent requests for her famous Aji. To keep up with increasing demand, Dyana began to look at ways that she could grow her flavourful Aji into a family brand. The opportunity came when she created Ají Gourmet Products in 2006 and sold her first jar to a local store in South Surrey, BC.
Today the company continues to be run as a family business – with Dyana, her husband, and their two children. Beginning with one original Aji, they have now expanded their brand to feature 10 unique products, including a new line of Aji Guacamole Pouches, which makes for a fast bowl of delicious guacamole. Aji has grown from a Gonzalez Biagi kitchen specialty to being available in more than 150 stores across BC, Alberta, and Toronto.
Experience the flavours of Colombia for yourself and take home a bottle of Aji Gourmet Products for your kitchen. Made with zero sugar, zero preservatives, and no artificial flavours, Aji is a healthy way to add some zip to your home-cooked meals. Available at various locations across the lower mainland.
La Poutine Week Vancouver!
On February 1st, 2020, La Poutine Week presented by SaputoTM is set to kick off its eighth year in a row, serving up even bigger, better and crazier poutines! Enjoy a cheese, gravy and fries extravaganza from February 1-7, and taste specialty poutines at participating restaurants across the country. Restaurants with their hat in the ring can use the annual week-long competition to showcase their famous dishes and longstanding recipes or toss in new creations. From fried-chicken poutines, seafood and clam chowder poutines, to Pou-tail pastries and other poutine desserts – there’s something for everyone to discover during La Poutine Week 2020!
The largest poutine festival in the world, with over 400 participating restaurants in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, British Colombia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, La Poutine Week promises to push the bounds of poutine creativity once again! The week-long event and friendly competition aims to first and foremost celebrate our nation’s greatest delicacy and to provide restaurants an opportunity to be innovative, imaginative, and reach out to new audiences. Meanwhile, die-hard poutine lovers and newcomers to the delicacy alike get the chance to discover new creations, and vote for their favourite dish online. Visit the festival’s official website: LaPoutineWeek.com , to explore participating restaurants near you.
For the second year in a row, La Poutine Week is also giving back to communities across Canada. One dollar for every poutine sold at a participating restaurant during La Poutine Week will go to Anorexia and Bulimia Québec (ANEB), an organization that guarantees free, immediate and specialized help to people with an eating disorder and their loved ones. What’s more, in Winnipeg La Poutine Week will donating one dollar of every participating poutine sold to Agape Table; an organization working towards ending hunger in the Winnipeg community by offering weekday breakfasts and foodbanks twice a week. Find out more about ANEB and Agape Table on their websites; here and here
La Poutine Week was first created by co-founders Na’eem Adam and Thierry Rassam, also of the wildly successful fall food festival Le Burger Week, in 2012. After their success bringing a new kind of national burger festival across Canada, the Montreal entrepreneurs thought what better way than to expand the culinary horizons of Canada than with a poutine- focused festival! La Poutine Week was an instantaneous hit – with over 20,000 poutine-lovers flocking towards 40 participating restaurants across Quebec in the first alone! Now, eight years later, the festival includes six Canadian provinces and over 350,000 participants!
“If you scream poutine, people usually run towards the source of the sound”, says Rassam: “So having a festival revolving around poutine made our work easy and fun. Then of course, we’ve had partners and ambassadors that helped us grow the event in so many cities, making it the biggest poutine celebration in the world, nothing less!”
“What’s amazing about hosting La Poutine Week for so long is how passionate our fans have become”, continues Adam: “The level of seriousness that restaurants and poutine-lovers around Canada have for this fun and delicious festival never ceases to amaze me.”
On February 1st, poutine-lovers across the nation are called upon to get their forks ready and stomachs hungry as they get a chance to discover the countless delicious creations, and vote for their favourite on www.lapoutineweek.com.
7-Eleven Canada Brings the Taste of Hawaii to Canadians During the Dreaded Winter Months
7Rewards members can enter to win a trip to Hawaii
with every registered coffee scan
January is cold, dark and gloomy and Blue Monday, claimed to be the most depressing day of the year, has officially arrived. 7-Eleven Canada is here to cure the post-holiday blues, pulling customers out of their winter slumps. The retailer is now offering cups of their high-quality Hawaiian Kona Blend Coffee in a special Kona print 20oz cup, and with every registered coffee scan, 7Rewards members will be entered for a chance to win 1 of 7 trips to Hawaii.
Grown and harvested on the slopes of the Mauna Loa on the Big Island, Kona blend coffee is rich in flavour and fresh from the sun-kissed shores of Hawaii. Every winter, Canadians are invited to indulge in the warm comfort, balanced flavour and smooth finish of 7-Eleven’s exclusive Kona Blend, escaping the dreaded Canadian winters, even just for a moment.
“With a long winter still ahead, we want to make our customers days a little brighter by bringing that Hawaiian feeling home,” says Vice President and General Manager of 7-Eleven Canada, Norman Hower. “The majority of Canadians would like to escape the cold climate during the winter, so we are excited to provide our 7Rewards registered members with a chance to win a trip to Hawaii.”
Every hot beverage can be fully customized at 7-Eleven’s coffee bar with condiments at no extra charge – making morning coffee runs quick and easy. 7-Eleven’s coffee is made of 100% premium Arabica beans, hand-selected and small-batch roasted in Canada, making a consistent and delicious cup of coffee, every time.
For a chance to win, customers must be registered as a 7Rewards member. Every registered coffee scan is a chance to win 1 of 7 trips to Hawaii. Customers who are not yet a member can enter in-store, download the 7-Eleven app, text KONA to 711247 or sign up at 7-eleven.ca/7rewards/ to get one step closer to winning the grand prize. Click here to learn more about the contest rules.
The Surrey Eats New Years Social at The Clayton Public House
Join Us For THE New Year’s Celebration
The Surrey Eats New Years Social
COCKTAILS + CANAPES
Benefiting The Surrey Food Bank + My Cloverdale Kitchen
PRESENTED by: Z95.3, Robbie Johal + The Clayton Public House
The new year is coming; the party is near.
We are sure looking forward to lots of good cheer.
Get all dressed up in your snazziest best, So you can win the prize + beat out the rest.
We will have the Z95.3 Street Squad, Games, Prizes, Raffles, Giveaways + A prize for the best dressed as voted on by the other party goers! This will be one for the books!
The tickets are $35 (or 4 for $125)/
This includes Canapes all night + a GLASS of FREE Champagne at MIDNIGHT!
Take a picture at our STEP + REPEAT, tag all the participating sponsors and you will get 5 free entries into the BIG PRIZE draw!
Z95.3, Robbie Johal – Clayton’s #1 Realtor, The Clayton Public House, Ultra Digital Printing, Surrey604.
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