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Taste buds tingling: Special guest joins Taste of Home drop-in at Women’s Habitat

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(L-R): Damian Maldaver, CDI child and family clinician with the Taste of Home program; Nada Martel, Taste of Home volunteer; Jordana Levine, PR and Marketing Manager, Momofuku Toronto; Paula Navarrete, Chef de Cuisine at Momofuku Daishō; Sylvon Hutson, Taste of Home culinary facilitator; Michelle Fraser, head of the Girlz Space program at Women’s Habitat; and Cathy Paton, Taste of Home stress management facilitator.

In a bright, airy kitchen in Etobicoke, a group of young women come together every Thursday night to cook, make art and take part in stress management exercises. Through a partnership with CDI's Taste of Home program and Women’s Habitat, this drop-in group program has been taking place each week since the fall.

On a recent evening, the teens enjoyed a cooking demo from a special guest: Paula Navarrete, Chef de Cuisine at Momofuku Daishō, a restaurant located on the third floor of Momofuku Toronto in the downtown core that serves a variety of seasonal and locally inspired dishes. The group prepped and cooked a tasty, budget-friendly menu: banh mi chicken wraps and apple slaw.

Chef Navarrete participated in CDI’s June 2016 fundraising event, A Taste of Home Evening, in support of the agency’s family violence programming, and she has been a supporter of the Taste of Home program ever since.

“I believe strongly in supporting community initiatives, especially programs that work with children and youth,” Chef Navarrete says. “I love working with CDI, and it has been a real pleasure spending time with such an enthusiastic group of young chefs.”

The group prepped and cooked the entire meal together, learning expert tips from Chef Navarrete on food handling and preparation.

CDI’s Taste of Home program typically operates in partner shelters in Toronto, bringing the comforts of home into the shelter environment by teaching children how to prepare simple, healthy, budget-friendly and familiar recipes. At the same time, children learn strategies to cope with the stresses of living in a shelter, not to mention the issues that may have brought them there, such as family violence, poverty and homelessness.

The new partnership with the Girlz Space program at Women’s Habitat has opened the Taste of Home program to a new group: young women between the ages of 12 and 18 seeking a fun, safe space where they can gather after school. With most childcare programs ending at age 12, older youth are often left without supervision, which can sometimes lead to engagement in dangerous activities.

“The girls love cooking and this was a great opportunity for them to learn proper and safe kitchen techniques. The stress management techniques incorporated into the program were especially wonderful. Many of the girls continue to use the techniques in other areas of their life to manage their stress,” says Michelle Fraser, head of the Girlz Space program.



Chicken bahn mi wraps

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 large carrots
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 1 english cucumber
  • ½ red onion
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • ¼ cup mayo
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp maggi seasoning


  1. Marinate chicken for 15 minutes, with garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, and sesame oil.
  2. Pan fry chicken until cooked.
  3. Slice carrots, cucumber, and red onion into strips.
  4. Season with salt and sugar, and add the rice wine vinegar. Let it sit.
  5. Pick cilantro leaves.
  6. Mix mayo with soy and maggi.
  7. Warm up tortillas and assemble with chicken, mayo, vegetables, and cilantro.

Apple slaw (serves 4)


  • ½ head green cabbage
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 long red chili
  • ¼ bunch cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 limes
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup peanuts (optional)


  1. Slice cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and sugar, and let it sit for 6 minutes..
  2. Slice scallions, chili, and apple.
  3. Mix rice wine vinegar, oil, garlic, lime juice, sugar, salt, and pepper to make a dressing.
  4. Garnish the slaw with cilantro (and peanuts, if using)

To learn more about the Taste of Home program, click here