Andrew Coppolino: how to cook with food bank ingredients

Look for a new Waterloo region cookbook in 2017, one that features local cooks and their recipes and which is geared to raise money for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

You can make delicious and nutritious meals with food bank ingredients

Chef Jonathan Gushue and food columnist Andrew Coppolino talk about preparing food during the annual CBC Sounds of the Season broadcast. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A new Waterloo region cookbook featuring local cooks and their recipes will be published in 2017, and will raise money for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. 

"This book will contain delicious recipes, tips, stories and beautiful photographs that will help you create nutritious and interesting meals for every season. Every book sold will help the food bank serve a network of more than 100 essential food support programs throughout the region," said Ruth Friendship-Keller, the food bank's marketing and communications manager.

The announcement came Friday morning at CBC's annual Sounds of the Season live broadcast at TheMuseum in downtown Kitchener. The broadcast kicked off the month-long Sounds of the Season food drive in support of the food bank, and included a sample dish prepared by Jonathan Gushue of The Berlin in Kitchener, which was served to a live audience of over 200 people. 

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and its agencies provide food support to over 31,000 people in Waterloo Region each year. They estimate that one in 20 households in the region needs assistance – and half of those households are families with children. Recently, the organization also provided food starter kits to 200 households of Syrian refugees as they moved into to their own homes in the region. 

$20 can feed a family of four

A donation of $20 to the food bank will feed a family of four for four days. Or, if you want to donate food, items like canned fish and meat, dry beans, beans in sauce, stews and chili, and macaroni and cheese are popular.

In the cookbook, contributing chefs will draw inspiration from typical food bank items, as well fresh fruits and vegetables when in season, for their recipes. When Gushue perused the list of food hamper contents to prepare his meal on Friday, he said he was struck by the range of the two dozen ingredients.

"I was impressed. I think it's very comprehensive, and I was really interested with how intricate it was in the way it gives you a lot of options. I was thinking a hamper would only be a meal or two. Clearly, it's a lot more than that," Gushue said. 

Gushue, who once visited Japan with a few other chefs, has been inspired by Japanese cuisine and cooking techniques, so for Sounds of the Season he prepared what he called a Japanese-inspired "breakfast salad." He added a few of his own ingredients as well. 

As for tips and techniques, Gushue said that using a bit of imagination with the hamper ingredients could yield some delicious and nutritious dishes. Balancing hard and soft textures and matching rich ingredients with less flavourful ones will also help, he said. 

But he also recognizes that not everyone likes to cook, nor do they have the time, so he offers a basic suggestion.

"It's like anything with cooking. The biggest thing is to keep it simple," he said, stressing that not everything needs to be glazed and sauced. "A simple sweet potato with a bit of butter or olive oil and some salt is just lovely."

Chef Jonathan Gushue made this Japanese Breakfast Salad for our Sounds of the Season event. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

"Japanese Breakfast Salad"
Jonathan Gushue, The Berlin restaurant, Kitchener


  • 1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 cup cooked medium grain rice
  • 6 eggs, whipped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled, diced and cooked in salted water
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels, cooked
  • ½ cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili paste or diced, cooked chili

Mix the egg with the sugar and soy and cook. Scramble until dry and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add the egg mixture and combine. Adjust seasoning with sesame oil and chili paste. Garnish with extra sesame seeds.

Serve at room temperature.


Andrew Coppolino

Food columnist, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo

Andrew Coppolino is a food columnist for CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. He was formerly restaurant reviewer with The Waterloo Region Record. He also contributes to Culinary Trends and Restaurant Report magazines in the U.S. and is the co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare. A couple of years of cooking as an apprentice chef in a restaurant kitchen helped him decide he wanted to work with food from the other side of the stove.