When a love of food
William Cheng and Chef’s Circle are transforming lives, one unforgettable meal at a time
Sunnybrook Foundation Board member and restauranteur William Cheng has a recipe for happiness.
“In our culture, and in my family, we believe that if you have the capability to help others find happiness, then you should.” says the entrepreneur who has built several thriving, high-end Toronto restaurants – Sushi Masaki Saito, Shoushin and Tachi – alongside his family’s Premier Candle Corporation, the country’s largest independent candle manufacturing company.
It’s not the only thing that puts a smile on his face. Growing up in Hong Kong and later in Vancouver, William was taught to appreciate food from around the world. When he graduated from university, he started working for his father, but his dream was always to open his own restaurant.
“I like to see people sitting around a dinner table and having a great experience. There’s such joy in watching people feel good about what you create,” says William.
Soon after joining the Sunnybrook Foundation Board in 2018, William started thinking about how he might leverage his twin passions to benefit Sunnybrook. He proposed Chef’s Circle, a series of exclusive fundraising events, featuring exquisite menus presented by award-winning Michelin star chefs from his restaurants and around the world.
Making an impact
The inaugural Chef’s Circle in early 2020 raised $120,000. In the years since, the event continues to be a smash success, with William and his friends and colleagues raising more than $670,000 over the years for innovation, research and care at Sunnybrook.
The funds have supported the Dr. Jack Tu Chair in Cardiovascular Outcomes Research. Named in memory of the Sunnybrook cardiologist and researcher, the Dr. Jack Tu Chair is dedicated to realizing new possibilities for cardiac care in high-risk communities. As the inaugural chairholder, Dr. Dennis Ko is building Canada’s first database with information on race, ethnicity and cardiovascular disease. He plans to use the data to better understand, for example, whether East Asians are more likely to experience heart attacks, what treatments they receive and how they fare in the long-term.
“My goal as chair is to advance understanding about these issues and to use that knowledge to inform practice and improve outcomes for more patients,” says Dr. Ko.
The Dr. Jack Tu Chair is just one example of what Chef’s Circle has made possible.
With as many as four dinners on tap for the next year alone, William has big plans to continue creating memorable experiences that not only leave his friends smiling but help realize Sunnybrook’s vision to invent the future of health care.
Funds raised from the 2022 Chef’s Circle events will go to support Sunnybrook’s highest priority and emerging needs. This support sends an important message: It’s a recognition that health care is constantly evolving, and Sunnybrook’s ability to respond to its most urgent needs must be just as nimble.
“I hope everyone leaves Chef’s Circle feeling happier for the experience and the knowledge that they’ve helped someone,” says William. “If that happens, then I’ve done my job.”
One of many patients taking part in clinical trials at Sunnybrook, Karen Cotnam’s experience inspired her to become a donor