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A taste for giving

Chef fights hunger through cookie-swap charity that donates to food banks


November 12, 2021
By Naomi Szeben

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Chef Alleguede is as dedicated to helping fight hunger as he is creating decadent cookies. The National Cookie Exchange charity brings his two passions together. PHOTO COURTESY PR DEPARTMENT AND BREAKTHROUGH COMMUNICATIONS

Chef Rodney Alleguede is the owner and Head Pastry Chef who had the honour of working in Michelin-starred institutions such as Fouquet’s, Le Violon D’Ingres and La Maison Lenôtre. 

His experiences and education led him to open Goûter (French for “Taste”) in Toronto, Ont. 

Alleguede brings his skill and passion to Goûter, which opened in 2016, bringing the best of French pastry, chocolates and breads to three locations in Toronto. The traditional offerings belie the modern conveniences his shops offer: pop-up markets, online third-party orders, and of course, curbside pickup. 

“The pandemic was very interesting for us because it forced us to rethink our business to 90 per cent of its capacities and venture towards new guidelines, like the online ordering, the home deliveries,” Alleguede says. “We reviewed our hours, we lost a good chunk of maybe 90 per cent of our wholesale at the time, so we had to completely rethink our menu … it was really tough at first; it’s amazing for us in the sense that it gave us that opportunity to really focus our business on our priorities, and be able to really set our goals and our standards properly.”

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Alleguede noticed the pandemic had narrowed the gap between surviving and starving for many people. As a baker whose passion is food, hunger is a subject close to his heart. He joined other chefs to help fight hunger through a cookie-themed charity, the “National Cookie Exchange.” He had been approached to design his signature biscotti with Amarula, an African cream liqueur. The public (professional and amateur bakers) can donate to charity by submitting a recipe through social media. For every recipe that is shared with the hashtag #NationalCookieExchange recipe through either their personal Instagram or Amarula Canada’s Facebook page. For each recipe shared, Amarula donates $5 to Feed Ontario, Food Banks BC and Food Banks of Quebec. 

“Food Bank is very important because I think that this is a little bit why I started my business. It’s not right to have hunger. In 2021, we produce enough food, worldwide to feed more than enough people…I can’t understand why in our generation, there are kids that go to school hungry. There’s people in the streets that are living in famine. In Africa, people who work in chocolate factories and production barely have food. It’s just not normal, it’s beyond acceptable.” 

As the holiday season is about giving, Chef Alleguede knows what joy baked goods bring, but it doesn’t have to be specifically about gifting. “Everybody deserves a little bit of happiness and one of the easiest ways to do it is through food. That’s why I started my business. It’s a pleasure to see a two-year-old eat a madeleine or a 90-year-old come for a little croissant and coffee.” He encourages sharing a recipe or a cookie with some neighbours as an act of kindness, and Amarula’s charity helps bring a bit more happiness to those experiencing hunger. 

Both sharing cookies and contributing to a good cause excited the chef. “It just made sense and on top of that, we are very close to many associations, like seeds of hope, the Food Bank of Canada and stuff like that. For us, it meant — especially for Christmas — it just meant a lot. We’ve been supporters of many opportunities to help throughout the years.” Allegude adds that this particular charity “meant sense to his art” and he eagerly says he “just had to do it.” 

“Sometimes we’re on the road and we give a bag of bread to a homeless guy and when he bites into it, you know what, it has meaning. And I wish a lot more people would do this.” Alleguede encourages chefs, cookie lovers and their families to log in and share a recipe. Recipes can be gluten-free, keto, plant-based or vegetarian, just don’t forget to use that hashtag!

Though the National Cookie Exchange Day is Dec. 22, the charity can be accessed online at: amarulacanada.ca/nationalcookieexhange. Alleguede has shared his recipe for Amarula Biscotti, which can be found in the Bakers Formula of our November 2021 edition.


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