Gallery Grill's Chef Suzanne Baby has been joining Toronto's top chefs for Empty Bowls, a fundraising event for homeless initiatives, for over two decades. She talks about her commitment to community engagement and support of under-represented communities.

When it’s time for Empty Bowls, Chef Suzanne Baby and Gallery Grill manager Jerry Horton load up the car with enough soup for 400, maybe 500 people and head to the Gardiner Museum. Suzanne isn’t smuggling food out of Hart House—she’s doing her part to aid the city’s homeless population.

Joining her is a long list of celebrity chefs who will spend the next few hours pouring soup into beautiful ceramic bowls made by Ontario-based potters. The potters donate more than 400 bowls to the event, the chefs donate their time and recipes, and guests contribute $55 a ticket to sample the soups and take home their chosen bowl at the end of the evening. All proceeds go to Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a culture-based native centre that works with those who seek to escape homelessness.

“It takes place in a beautiful space, right where Jamie [Kennedy] used to have his restaurant. It’s a great vibe and the bowls are gorgeous. I love Empty Bowls and what it does for the city’s homeless,” says Suzanne.

Jamie Kennedy invited Suzanne to participate over 20 years ago.

“He sent me an email and said, ‘would you like to be involved?’ And I said, ‘absolutely.’ He was instrumental in starting the whole thing. It’s a great opportunity to give back and it’s really rewarding to be able to support and use your position as a chef to help out.”

Siobhan Boyd, Senior Manager, Education & Adjunct Curator, Gardiner Museum, praised Suzanne’s involvement in an email to Hart House. 

“Empty Bowls is now in its 24th year and Chef Baby has been involved almost from the very beginning. Every year when I place the call to chefs to participate, Chef Baby is one of the first to respond. She has served some wonderful soups over the years!” 

Suzanne appreciates being given carte blanche. “As long as it’s soup,” she says, “I can cook whatever I please. We also have great local produce this time of the year that I can use.”

In case you’re wondering, she still hasn’t decided what soup to make, although she would like to choose a vegetarian recipe, which will balance out many of the other meat-based options. (If you’d like to offer her some suggestions, check out the note at the end of this post.)

“It’s fun for us, too, to be honest. Once you get the logistics out of the way and you’re set up, it’s nice to be able to socialize with other chefs. Some of them I only see at this event once a year. We try each other’s soups, and the spirit is great,” says Suzanne.

Why not join Chef to help this city’s homeless, and enjoy a great meal at the same time?

Tickets are still available

You can also help Suzanne choose her soup . Send us your suggestions on Twitter with #emptybowlstoronto and #harthouse or by email to [email protected]. She’s open to anything, as long as it’s vegetarian!