If people are hungry, you have to feed them. It’s as simple as that for Chef Jonny Blonde, who is no stranger to cooking for a cause.
A pillar of Hamilton’s food scene, you’ll often see Jonny Blonde out and about in the community, at his food truck, his take-out restaurant Jonny Blonde Kitchen, catering events, instructing cooking classes, or getting involved in Hamilton’s culinary events (like NOSH’s Chef Wars where he was the runner up or November’s Pop Up Hamilton Shuraka with Karam Kitchen).
On December 14, Jonny and his partner Layal served roasted pork loin, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and dessert to 130 people outside of the Salvation Army out of Jonny Blonde Food Truck.
Two years ago, they did the same for Thanksgiving.
It’s a no-brainer for the couple, who say giving back isn’t just a holiday tradition, it’s something that comes naturally year-round.
“Money is always tight. But food is something you just throw on the bill and it doesn’t seem like a big deal,” Jonny says. It’s an understandable sentiment from a chef with a kitchen full of ingredients, who says it’s his duty to feed people who are hungry.
Starting off in a food truck, Layal says feeding someone that couldn’t afford something to eat on the street, and giving a percentage of sales to the school or church that was hosting your truck, is just part of the culture.
They have donated or discounted food for events such as November’s Food 4 Kids Breakfast Gala at Michelangelo’s and the Syrian Newcomers anniversary dinner at City Hall.
When they first opened Jonny Blonde Kitchen in January, instead of cutting the ribbon at a grand opening, Jonny cut off his hair for charity. They donated over $1800 to the Canadian Cancer Society and Jonny’s locks went to Angel Hair for Kids in Mississauga. They celebrated with free soup and a tip jar for collecting donations.
On November 26, Jonny Blonde took part in The Freedom Arts Project fundraiser organized by Stephanie and Leo Santos of Papa Leo’s. The fundraiser took place at the Zoetic Theatre and also involved Chef Manny Ferreira (Mezcal TNT/Uno Mas) and Chef Ken LeFebour (Nellie James). Funds from the event will support arts programs in elementary schools where they wouldn’t otherwise exist. Guests enjoyed apps donated by the four chefs and a short documentary about working with special needs children.
As part of this project, four children from St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School teamed up with one of the four chefs to learn hands on cooking skills for a day. Jonny worked with a young girl named Pavie to make apple pie from scratch.
It’s obvious there’s a culture of giving in all of Hamilton too. When someone’s in need, the Hamilton food scene comes together.
Jonny also generously provided soup for the Aldershot tree lighting and his famous maple bacon butter tarts for the Concession BIA’s Breakfast with Santa at St Stephen on the Mount.
Jonny says he grew up surrounded by giving.
His dad was a minister and would fundraise all over Southern Ontario to raise money for third-world developments. Jonny recalls going to Honduras with his dad in his teens and translating Spanish to English (Jonny was born in Spain) for a mission trip where they were building a health clinic in the middle of the jungle.
He remembers seeing a ton of poverty and people dying of starvation.
“Hamilton is no stranger to it either. There’s a lot of up and coming, amazing stuff happening in the city but to pretend like the other half of the city that’s been around isn’t there – it is there. There’s still a lot of people struggling. You only have to take a walk into certain areas to understand not everyone is feeling it.”
With his take-out location across the street from Juravinski Hospital, Jonny tries to be a bit of sunshine.
“We emphasize to our staff to be a bright spot in someone’s day. It’s a heavy spot for some people. We really have to be a beacon of light.”
The one-year anniversary of Jonny Blonde’s Kitchen is coming up in January. The pair will celebrate with complimentary soup, apps, and 10% of the sales plus tips donated to the Canadian Cancer Society.
“We have had so many people help us. There’s a culture of people doing things for us and us doing it for them. We wouldn’t even still be around if it wasn’t for that,” says Layal.
I bid farewell with a Christmas card, scone and freshly made bread in hand and I know after a humbling conversation that Jonny and Layal share the generous sentiment of the holidays all year round.
Visit Jonny Blonde Kitchen at 664 Concession Street