Toronto pop-up restaurant out to bust HIV food-preparation myths

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Toronto's Casey House opened a pop-up restaurant with HIV-positive kitchen staff to dispel myths around people living with HIV and AIDS Twitter

"I got HIV from pasta. Said no one ever," reads one of the cheeky aprons worn by a member of the kitchen staff at June's HIV+ Eatery in Toronto.

The pop-up restaurant, organized by Casey House, a local care centre for people living with HIV and AIDS, was out to bust the myth that you can contract HIV from prepared food.

Caption
HIV-positive kitchen staff at June's HIV+ Eatery wear stigma-busting aprons to dispel myths about people living with HIV and AIDS. Supplied photo

The sold out, two-night event was staffed by 14 people, and is the world’s first eatery in which all the kitchen staff were HIV-positive.

“There’s absolutely no risk that somebody can contract HIV from sharing a meal,” Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House, told The Guardian. “HIV doesn’t live well out of the body for any length of time and through the cooking the virus dies.”

Tickets for dinner at June's HIV+ Eatery sold out quickly. Organizer Casey House plans to host a similar event in the future.
Tickets for dinner at June's HIV+ Eatery sold out quickly. Organizer Casey House plans to host a similar event in the near future. Twitter

Casey House was inspired to open the restaurant after a recent study found that half of Canadians said they wouldn’t knowingly eat or share food prepared by someone who is HIV-positive.

The same study also revealed that some still incorrectly believe that HIV can be transmitted though skin-to-skin touch, saliva or sharing glasses or cutlery.

“There were a lot of questions about what happens if somebody cuts themselves in the kitchen and they’re HIV positive,” said Simons to The Guardian. “We manage that like anybody would in a kitchen: you make sure you provide first aid, you clean up the area, you throw away whatever has been touched by the blood and you clean the surfaces. We would do that regardless of whether you have HIV or not — that’s just common sense.”

Two-hundred tickets were available for $125 and sold out within two weeks.

Chef Matt Basile of Toronto's Fidel Gastro worked with and trained the 14-member kitchen crew ahead of the November 7-8 event.

Despite increased education and awareness, on average, seven Canadians a day are diagnosed with HIV.

What was on the menu?

First course
Northern Thai potato leek soup

Coconut and potato broth, fresh lime, pickled chilies and crispy leeks

Second course
Roasted heirloom salad

Grilled artichokes, roasted heirloom tomatoes and carrots, charred fennel, pear, beet chips, pomegranate dressing, harissa spiced pepitas and lime yogurt

Third course
Surf + turf

Arctic char parpadelle with pea and basil oil, grilled skirt steak with garlic and chili rapini

Sweet
Ginger bread tiramisu

Coffee whipped cream, burnt meringue, boozy maple syrup and blitzed dark chocolate espresso beans

To drink
Kim Crawford

Sauvignon blanc or pinot noir

Paloma

Tromba Blanco tequila, grapefruit juice and fiesta salt

Amsterdam

3-speed lager

Editor's Note

Toronto's Casey House accepts donations year-round, and for a limited time, is offering aprons to those who donate $150 or more on the June's HIV+ Eatery website

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