'This is the future of social enterprise:' Ottawa Mission opens 'Chef Ric's'

The Ottawa Mission has launched a new social enterprise set to serve healthy meals while training future workers.

'Chef Ric's' is now open on Rideau Street at the former home of the Rideau Bakery. 

The facility is a new home for the Ottawa Mission's Food Service's Training Program and a dream come true for Chef Ric Allen Watson.

“I remember the day the old Rideau Bakery closed. I walked by with my partner and I said ‘Wouldn’t this be an ideal location?’ said Chef Ric, director of food services at the Ottawa Mission. “That was just the dream, and that dream happened to come true.”

The shop is offering up healthy affordable meals and will serve as a new space for the expanded training program.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a student go through the program, get to graduation and then begin their job and their whole life has changed.”

“I grew up in abuse, I baked, I cooked a lot, you know hands straight in the dish, it was a therapy,” said Erica La France, a student of the program.

Like her, students all have their own difficult stories and are training to work in commercial kitchens through the FSTP.

“Once i learned of Chef Ric’s I knew it was the learning niche i needed,” said La France. “It was a safe place, a sense of community, and people that understand.”

Today we are proud to officially open the doors to @ChefRics, a social enterprise and community asset for people from all walks of life. pic.twitter.com/3hCetaL37r

— The Ottawa Mission (@OttawaMission) September 9, 2021

Since 2004, 190 people have graduated from the FSTP with a 90 per cent success rate, meaning they've gone on to jobs in the food service industry.

“This is the future of social enterprise and this is the future of employment opportunities,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said. “We know after the pandemic there is an acute shortage of people needed to work in the hospitality and restaurant industry.”

'Chef Ric's' will also expand the Mission's growing catering business, which all proceeds directed back into the FSTP. It will also be the new home of the Mobile Mission Meals food truck program, which has served more than 120,000 meals since it started a year ago.

The new space for the project is funded through a grant by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and with the help of Manor Park Management, who offered up the space for a lease of just $10 per year.

“This is how you end homelessness,” said Peter Tilley, CEO of the Ottawa mission. “This is how you get 60 to 70 people a year into jobs so they can support themselves, possibly even without rent subsidies that they can live inter-dependently.”

And so this state of the art food shop and training facility is now a new home for passionate students like La France who is determined to succeed.

“I am now in the driver’s seat of my own life, and this program puts me in charge of the trauma and abuse that I’ve been through,” said La France.