For Sylvain de Margerie, the best events are the ones that bring the children and their parents into his kitchen.
"A lot of it is the camaraderie we get in the kitchen here together. I think that's one of the things people appreciate a lot," says de Margerie, who volunteers his spare time to make food for people and host classes at the Bellevue Community Centre on Caldwell Avenue.
"Everybody's in the kitchen and it's sort of mayhem, but it's a good mayhem. It's like a big family kitchen. Today we had the kids and their parents, and those are my best events because it feels to me like this place is more of a home.
"You sit down at a table and your guards and your prejudices fall down. ... Everybody is more accepting, and also you're having a good physical experience. It puts everybody in a good mood and a mood to make compromises and listen more."
'Find something that you really, really like, and do it, because that way it's not an effort, it's not work, you're just doing it for the pleasure.' -Sylvain de Margerie
De Margerie hosts classes on weekdays. The folks who show up have many backgrounds and, for the most part, are unable to work. He says they shouldn't be judged for it.
"No one should be judgmental ... I know first-hand, they're not working for very good reasons, and some of those reasons keep them from being able to prepare food at home," he says.
"We have some ... refugees, who essentially have had to fight for food through all their childhood and their early adulthood. And when they're here and insisting you give them a full plate ... and sometimes become aggressive, you can't be judgmental about that. What has the world put them through? ... Just be nice to them, and slowly you can influence things, change things."
But for all the help he provides, de Margerie says in a certain light, his motivation is somewhat selfish, too.
"I wouldn't be able to be here if it wasn't really fun, so that's the message I give to anybody who volunteers. Find something that you really, really like, and do it, because that way it's not an effort, it's not work, you're just doing it for the pleasure."
Going forward, his top priority is finding more volunteers.
Trailblazers is a community connection project that tells stories about people making an impact in the Ottawa area. We received hundreds of submissions and a panel of judges helped select our top 10.