With the race discussion on the front burner and restaurants functioning at a mere simmer, Toronto chef Trevor Lui (Joybird) saw an opportunity whose time had come. So, in September, along with his sister, Stephanie Lui-Valentim, he founded the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) culinary talent agency Quell. Its focus is not placing talent in the restaurant environment. Instead, it’s looking to advance positive change in the foundations of the hospitality industry through involvement and cooperation. “If a brand wants to enact change and do it properly, our talent should be there to help,” Lui says. BIPOC chefs shilling for a high-profile manufacturer is one thing. But Quell’s priority is initiatives of substance. The best example of that is Quell’s current involvement with the audit of the Canada Food Guide. “We’re looking at how it reads as it relates to a real cross-section of our people,” Lui explains. Quell’s roster of talent — from Joshna Maharaj and Joseph Shawana to Tawfik Shehata and Bashir Munye — is involved in the project to arrive at new cross-cultural recommendations and solutions. The days of pricey boneless, skinless chicken breast starring as the guide’s baseline lean protein are numbered. Daily consumption guidelines for ghee and soy are coming. Numerous similar initiatives are in play, and culinary brands, restaurants and consultants are answering Quell’s call. “We want a seat at the table,” Lui says.
Photo credit: Quell