- Food & Drink
The Passions of Nathan Fong
Ten years ago, Lotusland Vineyards was introducing a new label called People and Their Passions. It celebrated well-known BC residents who lived their passions, including the late Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, whose Dr. Peter Diaries on CBC chronicled his personal battle against AIDS.
Around that time, Vancouver food writer and stylist Nathan Fong was meeting with Maxine Davis, the executive director of the Dr. Peter Centre, a drop-in support centre and residence for people living with HIV/AIDS named in honour of Dr. Jepson-Young. At the time the centre was part of St. Paul’s Hospital but a $10-million capital campaign spearheaded by the Dr. Peter Foundation had raised money to build the just-about-to-be-opened facility on Comox Street.
The year before, Fong had hosted a cooking class at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks to raise money for the effort and Davis approached him with an idea for a fundraising cocktail party for some of the donors.
Fong offered to tap into his vast network of friends in the food and hospitality industry. They decided to call the fundraiser Passions and, rather than hold it in a hotel ballroom, they felt it was important for people to become familiar with the centre itself. Since the centre was about to open that September (2003), the timing was perfect.
In that first year, Fong convinced nine chefs to provide the food, 100 people enjoyed canapes and wine as they toured the new building and together they raised $7,000. On this, the 10th anniversary of Passions, the goal is to push the total amount raised past the $1-million mark.
It’s a number that makes Fong emotional and Davis says that, without him, the centre’s primary fundraiser would not be possible. This year’s event on Sept. 15 features 24 of Vancouver’s top chef vying for the attention of people who will pay at least $225 to attend. The chefs have a reputation for trying to outdo one another and the crowd includes a who’s who of Vancouver’s civic life.
“We are blessed Nathan’s putting his energy into helping the Dr. Peter Centre,” says Davis, admiring Fong for ignoring the stigma that can come with supporting an HIV/AIDs organization.
“Dr. Peter wrote a poem of affirmation that includes the line ‘But the energy that is in me will not be lost.’ Nathan has put his energy on top of Peter’s so a place like this can exist and provide the needed care.”
Davis says Passions is about “the power of one and how it extends itself to the power of many.”
“God bless Nathan,” says Shirley Young, Dr. Peter’s mother, who, at 80, volunteers every Wednesday morning. “He’s the most amazing and generous man. He puts so much into this.”
Fong says the event gained even deeper meaning for him when he bumped into an old friend from West Vancouver at the centre. That friend was a resident. “That’s when it really hit home for me.”
He also tears up when Davis shares the story of a resident who died, his partner and his dogs by his side, while Passions was taking place. His partner later recounted how moving it was to hear the laughter and sounds of the people enjoying the event, knowing that their generosity helped ensure the centre can provide the medical, emotional and day-to-day support that people with HIV/AIDS need.
“When you ask, why do it?, that’s probably one of the answers,” says Fong.
To purchase tickets for the event go to DrPeter.org.