Cedars Restaurant at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort — above is executive chef Eric Edwards — is one of the local businesses taking part in this year’s Dining Out for Life event.

Parksville Qualicum Beach restaurant part of battle against AIDS

Participating restaurants are donating 25 per cent of food sales to AIDS Vancouver Island April 30

It’s the easiest fundraiser you’ll participate in this year — all you have to do is pick up a menu and dine out.

On Thursday, April 30, some of the best-loved restaurants across Vancouver Island will come together to take part in Dining Out For Life, AIDS Vancouver Island’s (AVI) annual fundraiser supporting island programs and services for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

For this one day, participating restaurants will donate 25 per cent of food sales to AVI. Now celebrating its tenth year, Dining Out For Life has raised more than $350,000 for programs and services across Vancouver Island.

For restaurateurs, the event offers a chance to showcase their community spirit, as well as to connect with potential new customers: diners are encouraged to get out and enjoy a meal at their favourite local establishment, or to try out a new one, with many restaurants offering special menu items on the day.

“We are thrilled to once again be participating in the AIDS Vancouver Island Dining Out For Life fundraiser on April 30 and feeding a need on the Island with great food and much-needed awareness,” said Eric Edwards, executive chef at Cedars Restaurant at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort in Parksville.

Radius Food Co, Lefty’s Fresh Food, and Lefty’s Too are the other local eateries participating this year.

Edwards spoke a little about his passion for what he does and about the dishes at Cedars.

“It’s about creating delicious food, simple ingredients, crisp, clean flavours, and maintaining the integrity of the dish, caring about who you’re preparing the dish for and doing your best to make their culinary experience special,” said Edwards.

“If I had to recommend a signature dish it would have to be our West Coast Cedar’s Plank Salmon — it represents our region perfectly. The scallops on our menu are also amazing and we love using fresh local ingredients like Qualicum Bay Scallops, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, greens and herbs from Nanoose Edibles whenever possible … it’s very special to have relationships with our farm producers and we have so many in the region it’s awesome.”

“Being an executive chef has always been my passion and I’ve been doing it for over 30 years. For me, food is all about family, be it preparing breakfast for 1,800 people at the Annual Toy Drive charity event, making Christmas Turkey Dinner at the Salvation Army, creating dishes at Cedars, supporting Dining Out For Life, or barbecuing in my backyard. It all comes down to feeding family.”

For AVI, the fundraiser provides much-needed financial support for their programs and services, which span across the island from Port Hardy to Victoria, and include hot meal programs, nutrition education, counselling, HIV testing, education and prevention workshops, and nursing care. Through this comprehensive combination of services, AVI is working to reduce Vancouver Island’s rate of new HIV infections to zero.

“We need the support of the community more than ever — the demand for our services continues to grow and our funding has not kept pace. We’re closer than ever to getting to zero new infections on Vancouver Island and need to stay focused on reaching this goal,” says Katrina Jensen, executive director at AIDS Vancouver Island.

Dining Out For Life Vancouver Island is part of a larger international effort involving AIDS service organizations serving 60 cities and regions across North America. In 2014, Dining Out For Life events across the U.S. and Canada raised more than $4 million for HIV/AIDS programs and services.

— NEWS Staff/AVI

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