By: Michael Timmermans

Patricia Treusch, organizer, surrounded by the judges of the culinary challenge. From left, Anne Kirby, Chef Louis Charest, Judson Simpson and Deborah Lorenzin at the Soire.

Have you ever stopped to think about how much salt is in the food you eat?

March was kidney month and Algonquin culinary students took part in a low-sodium awareness event on March 7 at Restaurant International at the college’s Woodroffe campus in support of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Eastern Ontario chapter.

Under the leadership of Chef Mario Ramsay of the college’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, students created and prepared a menu of no salt, kidney-friendly dishes for a crowd of about 90 guests attending the Blue and Green Soiree.

Dishes prepared for the inaugural soiree were judged by Chef Jud Simpson of the House of Commons and Chef Louis Charest from Rideau Hall as well as renal dieticians.

Over two million Canadians live with, or are at risk of developing, kidney disease. There are about 1,000 individuals in the Ottawa-area suffering from kidney disease, dependent on regular dialysis, with some waiting for kidney transplants.

“For Algonquin College this is a great opportunity for the culinary students to become aware of the current and real issue of the renal diet and its impact on those suffering from kidney disease. As the future industry leaders, these students will be involved in creating a menu that supports dietary needs while producing food that is attractive and flavourful for the guest,” said Chef Mario Ramsay, culinary program professor, in a statement on the event’s website.

Unlike some gala dinner events, the focus of this event was really on the food. Guests were able to converse with chefs, allowing for discussion on the amount of salt in food and the dangerous consequences.

Patricia Treusch, chair of the Blue and Green Soiree, worked on the concept for the event for over four years. She wanted to begin with culinary students and educate them on sodium and kidney awareness since they will be entering the food industry after graduation. She is concerned with the “overwhelming” amount of hidden salt in our food and the consequences it causes and wanted to start educating people at a grassroots level.

“I’m not waiting for a kidney-friendly diet,” she said, referencing the recent public awareness of celiac disease. People with celiac are intolerant to gluten.

Treusch plans to hold the Blue and Green Soiree on a yearly basis and continue her education campaign.

“Awareness is knowledge,” she said. “We can’t wait for government to act on our behalf,” she said.