Jennifer Cheng
Author Archives: Jennifer Cheng

CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains enters its 14th year

This evening, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research will celebrate the 14th annual CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains gala fundraiser for Canadian HIV/AIDS research with an array of glamourous festivities at 18 different venues in the Bloor/Yorkville area.

As one of Toronto’s most visible and prolific fundraising events, CANFAR has been planning tonight’s celebrations all year round. In the next few hours, high-end retail and fashion flagships – Harry Rosen, Swarovski, Diesel, Roots, and Hugo – galleries such as Liss, and museums like the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, will transform into exquisite dining rooms.

At 6:30 p.m., cocktails will be served to 700 guests scattered among such select locales, in small groups ranging from about 30 to 40 each.

An hour later, there will be an intimate dinner prepared by 17 of the city’s most acclaimed executive chefs. Afterwards, this crowd will shuttle to The Party at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Held at 9 p.m., with an exclusive guest list of 1700 –  a diverse mix of celebrities, dignitaries, urban professionals, and socialites – it is the culmination of CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains.

Photo by Gary Beechey for BizBash

With TD Securities honcho Patrick B. Meneley and his wife, Michelle Meneley, as the Co-Chairs this year, the guest list includes Glen Baxter and Jeanne Beker from Fashion Television; award-winning television broadcaster Valerie Pringle, who is now the spokesperson for CANFAR; Maclean’s national editor Andrew Coyne; George Stroumboulopoulos, host of The Hour on CBC; real estate developer and co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts, Howard Sokolowski; Canadian broadcasters Mad Dog and Billie; celebrated journalist Linda Frum, and many more.

Dinner tickets are $600 per seat or $6,000 for a table of 10, both of which include admission and transportation to the ROM’s extravaganza. The Party itself costs $100 per person.

With such steep prices, CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains has raised $4 million for investigatory HIV/AIDS research grants awarded by CANFAR since 1996.

“We put up facts and stats, so people are aware that this is still for a cause,” says Holly Bacchus, communications and marketing manager of CANFAR, who is in her second year of hosting CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains.

“It’s a little bit about both the cause and party,” Bacchus says. “Instead of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it’s dinner. It’s also cool that people can eat fantastic food near dinosaurs in the ROM – an atmosphere that you would never get to experience otherwise.”

Nestled at the top of the ROM is a restaurant lounge in its third year as a sponsor of CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains.  At 10 a.m. this morning, C5′s rising star Ted Corrado began preparing a sumptuous three-course meal for 30 VIP guests. It’s a $68 dinner from his menu – cured wild salmon salad, Ontario lamb loin paired with seasonal vegetables, and sticky toffee.

Meanwhile, a visual team of 20 to 30 staff at the flagship Roots store on Bloor Street West is donating their time to set up a cornered-off space for a catered dinner from Trevor Kitchen and Bar. For the past month, Roots has been working on this event, which they will be supplying with Wayne Gretzky wines, along with Fiori Floral’s in-house architect, Diane Bald, who came up with the table display. In attendance at this party of 30 guests will be prominent personalities from Toronto Life and RBC. There will also be a special live performance by soulful singer/songwriter Aion Clarke.

With “sophisticated homespun dishes” from executive chef and owner Trevor Wilkinson, the first course will consist of roasted beef with clothbound cheddar, cashew butter and crispy shallots. For the entrée, guests may help themselves to a family style platter of roasted chicken, braised wagyu brisket, mashed potatoes, glazed root vegetables, and garlic braised kale. This meal will conclude with a passion fruit meringue pie with coconut anglaise for dessert.

As Roots values being an integral part of the community, the company has supported CANFAR’s work annually – with well-received dinners (on one occasion, the company had an AIDS researcher give a lecture to guests) – since its inception 14 years ago. This year’s theme is the Roots General Store.

Roots hosts 200 events per year, sometimes with live entertainment and the odd celebrity or two, but CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains is the highlight.

“We come up with a concept, which we change every year,” said Raymond Perkins, director of culture and PR, at Roots Canada Ltd. “We love to share what we have with the community at large. It’s a great collaboration with like-minded people.”

A similar individual,  Ryan Kenny, assistant store manager of Swarovski at Yonge and Bloor and the main host of tonight’s event, will be presenting a speech on this cause that he holds closest to his heart.

Swarovski, now involved with this event for eight years, will also be giving the store’s space to host a catered dinner from à la Carte Kitchen for 42 guests, who will each receive a butterfly figurine as a donation.

“Even if someone is dropping $600 on a dinner to have a good time, it goes towards a good cause in the end.  The cause still takes precedence over the glamour,” said Kenny.

In further support of fundraising activities, party-goers will be treated to sophisticated entertainment, vignettes, and a silent auction featuring a $500 Swarovski necklace and other rare and exotic luxury items.

“It’s not a sales event for us,” said Kenny. “We don’t open the cash register.”

The Bata Shoe Museum’s Juno Sole exhibit celebrates 40 years of the JUNO Awards

This morning, the Bata Shoe Museum on Bloor Street West kicked off a year-long exhibition of footwear from some of Canada’s most successful music artists to celebrate the JUNOS turning 40.

As the third instalment in a series of festivities creating early hype for the awards at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on March 27, 2011, the Bata Shoe Museum promoted JUNO Sole: Celebrating 40 Years of the JUNO Awards, solely via social media platforms – Twitter walls and Facebook trivia contests (bloggers were even invited to the media preview yesterday night for the very first time). Strangely enough, no advertising was involved. commemorate

But JUNO Sole has already attracted 140 visitors in the first two hours of its opening.

“We want to generate a more youthful demographic for a museum with an average audience of 35-plus,” says Nicole Cahill, marketing and public relations coordinator at the Bata Shoe Museum. “If you want to increase your traffic, you have to bring in different age groups.”

This collaboration between the Bata Shoe Museum and The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) features bands and solo artists alike, both old and new – Paul Anka, Canada’s first heartthrob teen idol, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado, Diana Krall, and Geddy Lee, to name just a few.

High-top sneakers worn by Shania Twain in several performances and on loan to the Bata Shoe Museum from the Shania Twain Center in Timmins, Ont.
Photo from

Shoes worn by Paul Anka, Canada’s first heartthrob teen idol. He won a JUNO Award in 1975, the year he hosted the broadcast.
Photo from

As the Bata Shoe Museum really wanted to blend music and culture, each exhibit in the Star Turns Gallery has a target that jumps out at the visitor: arts and culture vs. music and fashion. Cahill describes it as being very Canadiana.

With a JUNO hype reel video and a red listening station playing 46 songs on three iPads – one from each artist, she is confident that this 861 square foot exhibit will appeal to the technology-savvy youth.

At the same time, exhibition manager Sarah Beam-Borg, assistant curator at the Bata Shoe Museum, acknowledges the setbacks of this project with candour. Their deadline of Sept. 15 to receive footwear slipped right up until last Friday, when they received their last pair of shoes – K-OS’ frazzled brown lace-ups, which they picked up from his house.

“There was a lot of initial enthusiasm surrounding this project, but it was hard to get people to send shoes in,” says Beam-Borg.

For example, Corey Hart, a well-respected Canadian musician, who rose to fame in 1983 with “Sunglasses at Night” – the first single off his debut album, First Offense, was really keen to be a part of it, but he lives in Barbados, so it never came to fruition.

Mrs. Sonja Bata, founding chairman of the Bata Shoe Museum, also wrote a letter to Neil Young, but he declined.

Beam-Borg wished Neil Young, along with Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette, had been a part of the exhibit to show how successful Canadian artists can be.  “But you don’t need to be chart topping.”

The Bata Shoe Museum had no luck with them, but did succeed in acquiring a total of 46 entities of shoes from a wish list of 40.

The line-up includes Shania Twain’s high-top sneakers; Tom Cochrane’s cowboy boots; Jim Cuddy’s frayed black ankle boots; Drake’s New Balance sneakers; Anne Murray’s bright orange Reeboks; Michael Bublé’s sleek black dress shoes; Lights’ painted white sneakers – from her “Second Go” music video; Bryan Adams’ big clunker black boots; Avril Lavigne’s autographed Converse sneakers – worn only in her music video for “Sk8er Boi” and are, therefore, very clean; and many others.

“A couple of students from this morning criticized Lavigne for buying a brand new pair of shoes just for this exhibit, which is a misconception,” says Cahill. “We ask for shoes with significance.”

Visitors can even see the groove in the late Canadian jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson’s worn-out shoes.

“People don’t immediately think of shoes when they think of music, but everyone has shoes, so for visitors, it’s a meaningful way of connecting,” says Beam-Borg.

When the exhibition ends in Nov. 2011, artists will be given the opportunity to have their shoes back; 90 per cent of them are usually donated. The Bata Shoe Museum will choose to keep some on display, but the rest will be auctioned off for MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS, which raises funds and awareness for music programs in public high schools.

Mona Lisa mosaic made of burnt toast is a labour of loaf

Last week, a renowned New Zealand artist completed a giant rendition of Mona Lisa eating pink ice cream – made entirely of burnt toast – for Hong Kong’s Food Art Festival.

Maurice “Toastman” Bennett, 53, used nothing but a blowtorch to create different colour tones and patterns.  His latest work of art, “Sweet Delight Mona Lisa,” is a billboard-size mosaic made of about 6,000 pieces of toast.

Bennett endeavours to attain a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest mosaic made of toast.

His exhibit is open to the public as part of the Food Art Festival held at K-11, Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui shopping centre. Bennett worked on this Mona Lisa replica from a studio nestled on the first floor of the mall, which reeked of gas and burnt toast.

He has also created impressive celebrity toast portraits – from Elvis Presley and US President Barack Obama to New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Keys. Bennett’s abstract pieces are reminiscent of pixel art, with a slice of toast for each pixel.

The Toastman’s works of art have been featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Check out Maurice Bennett‘s website for his toast art and other burnt works.

Barack Obama mosaic by Maurice Bennett

Elvis Presley mosaic by Maurice Bennett