Ottawa

Elite Ottawa chef takes recipes back to his community

After winning the silver medal at the Canadian Culinary Championships, Ottawa chef Joe Thottungal hopes to give back to his community by teaching them how to cook.

Carlington residents had the chance to learn how to cook from award-winning chef Joe Thottungal

After winning the silver medal at the Canadian Culinary Championships, chef Joe Thottungal hopes to give back to his community by teaching them how to cook their favourite meals. (CBC Ottawa)

It's a full kitchen at the Bellevue Community Centre in Ottawa's Carlington community. The clinks and clanks of pots and pans are mixed with voices of young and not-so-young chefs in-the-making. 

It's not every day you can learn how to cook from an award-winning chef. But this is a special class for those who come from one of Ottawa's most disadvantaged communities. 

"Know the spices and where to put it. The mustard seeds should crack open in the oil, if you put it in cold oil, the flavour will not come out," instructs chef Joe Thottungal. 

Thottungal said he hopes to change how people see food and cooking. (CBC News)

This holiday season, he's giving back to his community by teaching residents how to prepare their favourite dishes.

After winning the silver medal last February at the Canadian Culinary Championships, Thottungal said he feels obligated to invest in his community. 

This is a festive season, and it's in me to give. I'm just giving back to the community.- Chef Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon

On the menu for the class is stir-fry with cabbage, basmati rice, and a cauliflower and ginger soup with a touch of coconut milk. 

"This is a festive season, and it's in me to give," he said. "I'm just giving back to the community." 

The cooking contest drove hundreds of food enthusiasts to his Coconut Lagoon restaurant, he said. This year, he decided to share his passion for food with families who would not be able to afford a holiday meal. 

Thottungal said he hopes to change how people see food. 

"When I do cooking classes, people say, 'Because we attended your cooking class 10 years ago, my husband is still cooking,'" he said. "When I hear those comments, I feel accomplished. I leave a legacy."

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