Ottawa chefs hold sandwich showdown for Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre

Joe Thottungal is judges' top pick while Louis Charest wins People's Choice

Gold Medal Plate winner Joe Thottungal, chef and owner of the Coconut Lagoon, can now add another prestigious title to his collection: Sandwich Sovereign of Ottawa.

He was carefully selected by a panel of celebrity judges at a brand new benefit, Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma, held Tuesday for the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre. It took place in the historic cereal barn at the Central Experimental Farm.

Thottungal, whose restaurant is located on St. Laurent Boulevard, won the 2016 Gold Medal Plate title in Ottawa and went on to win silver at the national competition.

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Joe Thottungal, executive chef and owner of Coconut Lagoon, was named Sandwich Sovereign of Ottawa at the Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma fundraiser for the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre, held at the Central Experimental Farm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips

However, he faced some stiff competition in the gourmet sandwich-making contest. Talented young chef Stephen La Salle from Andaz Ottawa Byward Market participated. So did executive chef Katie Brown Ardington from 24 Sussex and Louis Charest from Rideau Hall (leaving some to wonder whether it would come down to a showdown between the two chefs for the PM and GG).

Charest was the People’s Choice Award winner.

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From left, Ottawa executive chefs Joe Thottungal (Coconut Lagoon), Katie Brown Ardington (24 Sussex), Louis Charest (Rideau Hall) and Stephen La Salle (Andaz Ottawa Byward Market) participated in the inaugural Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma fundraiser for the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre, held at the Central Experimental Farm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Louis Charest, executive chef at Rideau Hall, received his People's Choice Award from Jody Brian during a gourmet sandwich contest held at the Central Experimental Farm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, in support of the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The evening was emceed by Majic 100 radio host Katherine Dines, who first went public last year about her past struggles with anorexia. She did so in order to raise awareness over eating disorders, which also commonly include bulimia and binge eating.

Hopewell executive director Jody Brian told the room how “a few people gave me the raised eyebrow” upon learning that the centre was hosting a food-related event for a cause that targets eating disorders.

“But, I actually couldn’t think of anything more fitting, as food is the medicine that lifts so many of our clients from illness and hopelessness and into strength and recovery,” she added.

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From left, Katherine Dines from Majic 100 with Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre executive director Jody Brian at the Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma benefit held Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at the Central Experimental Farm. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Award-winning cookbook author Margaret Dickinson was joined on the judging panel by Kathy Smart from Live the Smart Way, and Ottawa Citizen Food Editor Peter Hum, whose introduction elicited an audible gasp of surprise from the audience. Hum keeps a low public profile in order to be incognito when he's visiting restaurants to write a review.

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Winner Joe Thottungal is seen thanking judges, from left, Kathy Smart, the elusive Peter Hum and food expert Margaret Dickinson at the Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma fundraiser and gourmet sandwich showdown, held at the Central Experimental Farm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, in support of the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

Attendees included Karin Pagé, an associate at event sponsor Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall. She found all the food to be delicious and was having a hard time deciding on her favourite.

“They were all very good,” said Pagé. “I’m impressed by the caliber of the chefs and the judges that we have tonight.”

Pagé also sits on the board at Hopewell. The mother of two teenagers said she’s done enough coaching to see how eating disorders can affect young athletes. “I believe it’s an important cause,” she added.

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From left, Karin Pagé from Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall with her colleagues Josh Sprague, Tim Thomas and Chris Morris at the inaugural Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma fundraiser for the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre, held at the Central Experimental Farm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Dan Hunt and his wife, Lina Hunt, along with their son, Alex, were out to support the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre with Dr. Jaideep Lal and his wife, jewelry designer Tazim Lal, at the inaugural Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma benefit held at the Central Experimental Farm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Jennifer Drew with Nicole Loreto, head of communications for the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Nick Masciantonio and Andrew Jones, chair of the board for the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre, at the inaugural Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma held at the Central Experimental Farm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Organizers expect to know later in the week how much was raised at the benefit, which included a silent auction.

caroline@obj.ca