I attended a media tasting that offered more than delicious food. The event highlighted the work done at Social Crust, which is one of Coast Mental Health’s Social Enterprises. Coast Mental Health is an NPO that helps people with social barriers or mental illness recover by providing three essentials pillars of sustained recovery: housing, support services, and employment & education.
Cathy, the Director of Employment Services, shared how Coast Mental Health provides employment and education to youth with social or mental health barriers. The organization does this through a partnership with VCC to provide the Culinary Skills Training Program, which helps youth with barriers learn culinary skills and offer support in finding careers in the food services industry. April, the Communications Manager, created Coast’s website. The site shares inspiring stories of people that have been supported by the organization’s services and programs, along with information on how to get involved, and event updates.
Robert, the Chef Manager at Social Crust, also shared what the program entails. It involves both theory and practical skills, and the students gain real world experience with the face-to-face interactions with customers at the cafe. The first portion is four-months of theoretical and practical skills, which is followed by a six-week work experience practicum. Once the students complete their training and pass the course, some of the students get hired on at Social Crust. The cafe has a set menu, but the tasting featured some new items they plan to introduce. In addition, Robert mentioned that some of the staff have been working at the cafe for two and a half years and have expressed that they would like to learn more, so catering is also offered. This allows the staff to learn a dynamic menu, since each client will have different needs or wants for their particular event.
The attendees had a variety of tasty sandwiches, salads, breakfast items and even smoothies to try. The sandwiches featured were the Chicken & Bacon Club, Provençal Tuna Melt, Butter Chicken Panini, Monte Cristo with Avocado, and Portobello Mushroom & Brie Panini (my personal fave). The Portobello and Brie happen to be two of my favourite ingredients to have in between bread, and the staff at Social Crust does a great job with this delicious sandwich. How can you say no to herb roasted Portobello Mushroom, Brie, spinach, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions pesto aioli, served on a Panini-pressed Ciabatta?
The salads were as pretty as they looked filling and included Seasonal Mixed Greens, Greek Quinoa and the South West. I regretfully missed out on tasting the salads because I enjoyed the variety of sandwich bites a little too much (I didn’t leave room to try everything!).
The breakfast items offered included the Classic Breakfast (which has two eggs made to order, two bacon strips, hash browns seasoned with the cafe’s special-secret seasoning spice, and choice of white or whole wheat toast) and the Chorizo Breakfast Wrap (which has two scrambled eggs, ground mild Chorizo, fried black beans, Monterey Jack, spinach, hash browns, garlic aioli wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla). I could have breakfast for any meal!
It was a hot day and the cafe was pretty warm so I cooled off with one of their smoothies. I really enjoyed the Mocha Smoothie, which has banana, cocoa powder, peanut butter, almond milk and an espresso shot. It was light, refreshing, packed with cocoa flavour, and just the right amount of caffeine for a pick-me-up.
Social Crust’s missions are exceptional quality, empowerment and community, and are all tied together to provide customers with great food while offering opportunities for youth with barriers. The next time you’re in Gastown and are looking for something delicious, warm or quick for when you’re on the go, be sure to drop by Social Crust. You’re stomach, and heart, will be glad that you did.
335 W Pender St, Vancouver