Did you know that there are Toronto restaurants wholeheartedly invested in social enterprise? Hawthorne Food & Drink is one of them, and until recently I knew little about their mandate that mixes sustainable dining with social responsibility. Simply put, the intimate 40-seat Richmond Street East restaurant operates as a non-profit, supporting the advancement of hospitality workers around Toronto.
Aside from curating a menu focused on local Ontario ingredients from the likes of Monteforte Dairy, Dingo Farms, Kolapore Springs, and 100km foods, among others, Hawthorne has a more universal approach to how they think about food. As the sister organization of the Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC), every meal, event, or catering order at Hawthorne kicks back to support the education and training of hundreds of unemployed people across Toronto.
Hawthorne’s relationship with HWTC is not strictly monetary. Over half of the hospitality team at the restaurant – including cooks, wait staff, dishwashers, et al. – are training for permanent roles in Toronto’s hospitality industry. With so many potential barriers for entry in the workplace – social and financial difficulties, disability, mental health, language, new-immigrant, just to name a few – Hawthorne Food & Drink is a true equal opportunity employer. Call them an “employer of opportunity,” if you will.
While not everyone is guaranteed a permanent position at Hawthorne, their relationship with these staff/students is not contained within their four walls. Management at Hawthorne, like Nick May, act as facilitators to connect these individuals with others in the industry, ensuring work placement upon exit. Through resources and connections to groups like the HWTC, they even have follow-up initiatives that track the progress of former employees and participants in their programs to ensure they remain gainfully employed.
Next time you’re looking for a feel good meal that actually tastes great (note: sampled smoked salmon croquettes and a cold beet soup with dill crème that were exceptional!), Hawthorne Food & Drink satisfies all those cravings, and then some.
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