Olympians ready for a Great Kitchen Party in Victoria Thursday night

There might not be a vault big enough to contain all the medal bling Thursday night at the Victoria Conference Centre.

Olympic and Paralympic medallists Ghislaine Landry, Bianca Farella, Charity Williams, Ryan Cochrane, Hilary Caldwell, Simon Whitfield, Ben Rutledge, Andrew Byrnes, Dominic Seiterle, Lindsay Jennerich, Gabe Bergen and Michelle Stilwell will be among those on hand. So will former NHLers Russ and Geoff Courtnall, Matt Pettinger and Kirk McLean.

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But now the former Gold Medal Plates fundraiser is Canada’s Great Kitchen Party and more than about athletes.

After 12 years known as Gold Medal Plates, in which $15 million was raised nationally to assist Canadian Olympic athletes, the popular fundraiser’s platform has expanded to also support Canada’s young musicians and chefs.

The event is sold out with more than 500 tickets bought. The function will again feature top chefs from around the Island and rest of B.C. competing to make the national finals in Kelowna, while Olympians and other athletes mingle with the crowd. The live music will be provided by Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall, Anne Lindsay, Neil Osbourne, Sam Polley and Devin Cuddy.

The money raised will now be shared among Olympic and other Canadian amateur athletes through the B2ten program, the MusiCounts program which supplies musical instruments to school music programs across the country, and Community Foods Centre Canada programs aimed at teaching kids how to grow, cook and share healthy food.

Although the focus is not exclusively on Olympians, as in the past, athletes welcome the shift.

“I’ve spoken to Olympians such as Silken [Laumann] and they are pleased with the change,” said Bruce Courtnall, who is chairing the Victoria event for the sixth year.

The night's MC, 2008 Beijing Olympic gold-medallist rower Adam Kreek, concurs.

“I think the new format has hit on the trifecta of Canadian culture — sports, music and food,” said Kreek.

“This has become one of the best charity events in Victoria and brings different aspects of Canadian culture together. A big part of that remains in helping our amateur athletes continue on their journey.”

It will, however, be the last Victoria event for a while. The Great Kitchen Party will begin a run in Vancouver beginning next year. It was brought from the Lower Mainland to Victoria six years ago because many Canadian Olympians train on the Island.

“It’s been a huge and well-received success in Victoria, sold out every year, as the Island community has come through,” said Courtnall.

“But it’s a B.C. event and it’s time to move it back to Vancouver for a few years. I am sure it will return to Victoria again at some point.”

This year’s Victoria Great Kitchen Party is among 11 held across the country in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Moncton, Halifax and St. John’s, leading to the winning chefs meeting in the final in February in Kelowna.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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