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He had an idea to reduce food waste. It helped feed 2 million people




MONTREAL—Everybody at the Welcome Hall Mission looks forward to hockey nights — especially Montreal Canadiens home games.

Like most Montrealers, a lot of the people here are diehard fans. But for those who come to this mission in a converted factory in the southwest district of St-Henri for help, there’s an added treat: a gourmet meal the next afternoon.

Thanks to a partnership with the Bell Centre, home to the Canadiens, all the uneaten food served in the arena’s 124 private and corporate boxes is packaged, refrigerated and brought to the Welcome Hall Mission where it is served for lunch over the next day or two.

“Sometimes it’s pasta filled with duck, or ribs, or beef brochettes. There are cheese plates and cold-cut platters — delicious high-end food that in the past would have gone straight to the garbage,” said Kathryn Stephens, the mission’s director of development and community engagement. “Now the 200-plus homeless men who eat in our cafeteria get to enjoy it, too.

“It’s no wonder we are always cheering for the Canadiens to make it into the playoffs!”

La Tablée des Chefs (which roughly translates as Chefs’ Table) is the organization that makes it happen. The non-profit group is in the process of revolutionizing the redistribution of food waste from the hotel and restaurant industry. It is turning the commercial kitchen into a place for social change and the chefs, cooks and candy makers who work there into the agents.

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Jean-François Archambault, who founded the group in 2003 and serves as its indefatigable CEO, has come up with a formula that makes it easy for chefs and restaurant owners to rescue unused food promptly and safely. In its 15 years in existence, the organization’s food brokerage service has set some pretty impressive benchmarks: 750 million tonnes of uneaten food diverted from landfills; more than 2 million people fed with food recovered from restaurants, hockey arenas, hotels, bakeries and hospitals. Along the way it has begun to change the way the food industry handles the excess.

From a modest storefront in suburban Longueuil, on Montreal’s South Shore, La Tablée des Chefs has now expanded to Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto, as well as Mexico City and Paris, where the executive chef to French President Emmanuel Macron recently came on board. And this month, the group partnered with Hellmann’s and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to launch the Real Food Rescue program, taking fresh surplus food from Scotiabank Arena and redistributing it to families who need it most.

Jean-Francois Archambault visits the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment kitchen at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto where his group has partnered with Hellmann's and MLSE to launch the Real Food Rescue program to take fresh surplus food and redistribute it to those in need.
Jean-Francois Archambault visits the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment kitchen at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto where his group has partnered with Hellmann’s and MLSE to launch the Real Food Rescue program to take fresh surplus food and redistribute it to those in need.  (Richard Lautens)

Food waste has become an enormous global concern. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, as much as a third to half of food produced for human consumption is wasted in one way or another. In March, the Commission for Environmental Co-operation, which includes Canada, Mexico and the United States, released a report that estimated 168 million tonnes of food is wasted in North America every year. In Canada, that amounts to roughly $31 billion worth of food — or 396 kilograms per capita. The reasons are myriad — from overproduction, product damage and imperfect best-before labelling to wastefulness in home kitchens.

It is a problem that is beginning to attract popular attention thanks in part to efforts by activists like the Michelin-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura, who got people talking when he set up a soup kitchen not far from the prestigious Expo Milan international food fair in 2015 and cooked meals from the event’s garbage bins.

But back in the late 1990s, when it first dawned on Archambault that obscene quantities of uneaten food were being discarded in restaurant, hotel and banquet-hall kitchens, it was not a sexy topic. The term “food waste” conjured up images of rotten food that was unfit for human consumption and restaurants and hotels often relegated their leftovers to the dumpster without a second thought.

Archambault, a cook and self-described foodie, had recently graduated from the ITHQ (Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec), Montreal’s restaurant and hotel management school, and was working as sales manager in charge of banquets at Château Vaudreuil, a hotel and reception hall in a leafy locale on the shores of Lake of Two Mountains, off the western tip of Montreal island. Every weekend, after the wedding, anniversary and bar mitzvah hoopla ended, he’d watch mountains of leftover food being tossed into dumpsters.

There would be shrimp and crudités from the cocktail stations and filet mignon, vegetables and potatoes — whole pans of food that hadn’t even been plated. Sometimes there would be 30 or more extra portions of everything, untouched, because kitchens always overestimate so as not to run short. The staff might eat a bit of the leftovers at the end of their shifts, but most was thrown out. Archambault says he began to wonder: “What if there was a women’s shelter or a group home for 12 or 15 people nearby? You could feed everybody there with all of this. For two days.”

La Tablée des Chefs has developed a simple and sustainable process that sets a new standard for salvaging food in the hotel and restaurant industry. Here’s how the system works: Hotels, restaurants and institutions that want to donate their surplus food — on an impromptu or recurring basis — contact La Tablée. Together they figure out how much food they have to give, who will wrap it up and put it away at the end of the day, whether it needs refrigeration, when it can be picked up and where, how many people it will feed. The organization making the donation must agree to adhere to strict hygiene standards. (Not to donate food that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours, for example.)

On the other end, La Tablée fields requests from charitable organizations, both large and small, that are looking for food to supplement their programs. They are the ones who will be responsible for picking up the food and for ensuring that the “cold chain” is maintained. This means refrigerated products remain refrigerated and frozen products remain frozen at all times. They must pledge to serve the donated food, free-of-charge, in a timely fashion.

Clement hs worked with La Tablée des Chefs for 10 years. She says founder Jean-François Archambault has inspired her to serve those who have less.

Archambault, a ball of endless energy whose every sentence — in person and in emails and texts — ends with an exclamation mark, sees himself and his organization as “the missing link” between the two. La Tablée’s primary job, he says, is to make food recovery seamless and safe. To that end, his staff studies the needs of both the donor and the beneficiary organization and sets up a customized program that brings them together. He provides donors with all the containers required to store and transport the food, whether that’s single-use aluminum containers or large multiple-use food-grade plastic tubs. He also provides labels that clearly indicate what the food is, when it was made, how it needs to be stored and whether it contains any known allergens.

“If a chef feels secure and confident about the process, he or she is going to be more than willing to give,” Archambault said.

Baptiste Peupion, executive chef at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in downtown Montreal is one of 90 chefs who work with La Tablée. He says it is highly rewarding for the kitchen staff to know they are “closing the circle” when they set aside leftovers from the hotel’s numerous banquet halls for the Salvation Army crew that comes twice or three times a week to pick it up. At the end of their shifts, the kitchen staff inspects the leftovers at the buffets. What is deemed worthy is transferred to storage bins and stashed in a specially designated part of the fridge. When the pickup crew turns up it knows exactly where to look and what to take.

“As chefs and cooks, we know where the food that comes into our kitchen comes from. And we know what it takes to prepare it and cook it,” Peupion said. “It’s really great to know that at the end of the line it will be given to someone in need.”

Gerry Legatos, the procurement manager at the Old Brewery Mission, which feeds nearly 10,000 people a month, says La Tablée’s tried-and-true food-recovery system and its logistical support have given food recovery a new allure.

“There was once a taboo around sharing food waste. People in the food industry worried about donating without knowing how the food would be handled once it left their kitchens. They were terrified of food poisoning,” Legatos said. “But there is a new level of comfort with the kind of structure La Tablée has developed. Donors are more ready to help. And on the receiving end, we are reassured that what we are getting is safe. Too often we have to turn down leftover food because there aren’t guarantees that it has been handled properly every step of the way.”

La Tablée’s goal isn’t just to salvage leftover food. Archambault says he also wants to get people thinking about issues that would reduce food waste from the start — such as reducing portion sizes in restaurants, shortening the time food stays on buffet tables and making consumers aware of how much food goes to waste in their own fridges. In changing our mentality about food waste, he says he is also promoting social inclusion and human dignity.

La Tablée’s other mission, no less ambitious, is to change the way young people think about food. The organization’s educational arm offers 24-week culinary classes taught by chefs in 125 high schools in Quebec. (The Quebec government recently invested $5 million and the IGA supermarket chain another $1.7 million to help La Tablée expand its Kitchen Brigade program to more than 250 schools by 2022. The program is also launching this fall in four Toronto high schools.)

Archambault, who is 42, grew up in a middle-class family that loved to eat. His father was a lawyer, a bon vivant who co-founded a gastronomy club but also ran the neighbourhood Christmas food drive. His mother was an accomplished home cook and vegetable gardener. At an early age, he and his brother were enlisted to weed the garden. Even before he was a teenager, Archambault was already making appetizers, soups and salads for family meals. His own three daughters are also budding cooks. But Archambault says he recognizes that many young people — especially those in underprivileged families — grow up without knowing the pleasures and rewards of cooking their own food and eating it around a dinner table with those they love.

It’s the last day of culinary camp at La Tablée’s Longueuil headquarters and teenagers wearing aprons are whisking and stirring, the clatter of pans and happy chatter of voices filling the large professional kitchen. They have spent the day learning to make pasta and sauces and now it’s time to scrub the pots and wipe down the counters.

“Home economics classes aren’t part of the school curriculum anymore. At home, where usually both parents work, there is less and less time for cooking and eating together. More and more, people are eating prepared food on the run,” says Archambault.

“But the youths who take our cooking classes get really passionate about cooking. They start to think about other issues, too, like nutrition and sustainability. And they become ambassadors of good eating among their peers.

“It begins by learning to make soup and salad. But the long-term goal is for these students to develop culinary independence, which leads to healthier eating habits, which leads to lower levels of obesity.”

The Star is profiling 12 Canadians who are making our lives better. Next week we talk to STEM education visionary Eugenia Duodu.

Susan Semenak is a Montreal journalist and cookbook author. Follow her on Instagram @ssemenak


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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