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Hundreds of distinguished guests gathered at 14 private homes throughout Toronto on October 28 as part of the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival in support of University Health Network (UHN).

Wining and dining for a healthy cause

Hundreds of distinguished guests gathered at 14 private homes throughout Toronto on October 28 as part of the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival in support of University Health Network (UHN).

Attendees were treated to a five-course meal by celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud, Melissa Rodriguez and Emmanuel Renaut. Dramatic decor added to the flavour. The theme was classic black and white with a Great Gatsby-esque, art deco vibe, including feather-adorned chandeliers.

Thomas Bollmann

Founded in 2005 by Todd Halpern, president of Halpern Enterprises, the celebrated event is part of a weekend of festivities that make up the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival – an annual fundraiser to support medical research and innovations at UHN. To date, the fest has raised more than $132-million.

“One of the greatest things I’ve ever done is help raise money for the research driving the future of health care around the world,” says Halpern, UHN trustee and UHN Foundation board member. Together with his wife, Ellen, the Halperns welcomed 84 guests into their home for an invite-only, sit-down dinner created by Michelin-starred celebrity chefs, including French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. Friends and philanthropists mingled with some of the brightest minds in medicine for a night overflowing with fine wine, gourmet cuisine and meaningful connection.

Chatting with the innovators

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Thomas Bollmann

Dr. Kevin Smith, president and chief executive officer, UHN

On tradition Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival is one of the pinnacle events in celebrating great care, research, philanthropy and education. And it’s a tradition – it’s coming up on 20 years – so it really does feel like family. It also allows us to be grateful and mindful of all the people we have the privilege to serve.

On innovation Through research, we’re giving Canadians access to technologies and therapies they otherwise might not have for years to come. Our lung transplant program now uses a device called Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion, invented here, where we tune up the lungs so they’re perfect for transplantation. Hundreds of transplantations a year occur this way for people who are in life and death situations. They’re getting access to organ transplants that would not have happened without the science invented here and funded by events like this one.

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Thomas Bollmann

Dr. Thomas Forbes, surgeon-in-chief, Sprott Department of Surgery, UHN

On community UHN is a network of hospitals and rehabilitation, research and educational institutes. It’s also a coalition of our philanthropic partners. When I think about community, there are our supporters here tonight who are allowing us to go beyond what an average hospital could do. I think people are excited about the opportunity to contribute to a greater good. It’s easy to get down these days, but the energy and positivity here tonight – it’s infectious.

On the future of patient care The construction of a brand-new patient care tower at Toronto Western Hospital is our priority right now. It will be a 15-storey surgical tower that will allow the best and brightest practitioners to perform leading-edge surgery and really take it to the next level.

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Julie Quenneville, chief executive officer, UHN Foundation

On giving back Absolutely everybody needs health care. When we’re giving back and supporting our hospital, we’re ensuring that we can bring in, retain and recruit the very best from around the world so that they can care for our loved ones. They can care for the community. It’s a wonderful investment.

On UHN’s global presence UHN is the top hospital in the country. One of the best ways to measure that is by the amount of research conducted. We do around $500-million of research a year; the number two spot in the country does around $200-million. We’re considered one of the top five hospitals in the world and the only one in the top five that’s a publicly funded institution. Because of Toronto’s demographics, we can see disease from all facets – vulnerable populations and some of the wealthiest people in Canada, all at the same hospital. Also, 60 per cent of the people who live in the GTA are born outside the country. We have an incredible advantage to truly advance medicine for all.

On Philanthropy It makes the difference between quality and excellence in health care and is our number one source of funding for research and innovation. Donors provide the seed funding for research that allows us to then secure additional research dollars once the idea is proven to show promise. It allows us to recruit and retain the best talent from around the world and buy specialized equipment that’s not covered by the government.

Todd Halpern, president of Halpern Enterprises – one of the biggest wine importers in Canada – and wife Ellen generously opened their home to UHN supporters, as well as to leading doctors and scientists. “I got involved with UHN 25 years ago,” says Todd, “My father took ill and I realized with health care, you need to be involved. I was fortunate to be able to do so.” This year’s Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival, which he founded in 2005, raised a whopping $5-million.Thomas Bollmann

World renown chef Daniel Boulud – of Daniel and Café Boulud fame – travels the globe, overseeing more than 20 properties throughout the U.S., Toronto, Montreal, Dubai, Singapore and the Bahamas. As star chef at the Grand Cru Wine & Dine Experience, held at Todd and Ellen Halpern’s Forest Hill home, he celebrated “wonderful ingredients of the season,” with an exclusive menu that included a mouth-watering Veal à la Piémontaise (white truffle, veal tenderloin, osso bucco casserole, chestnut emulsion and winter roots). “My contribution here is to make people feel good,” he says.Thomas Bollmann

During a lively cocktail hour, guests nibbled on inventive canapés such as Ossetra caviar, Biscuit de Savoie pumpkin tartlette, Cinco Jotas ham, as well as a creation by executive chef Melissa Rodriguez – cured hamachi with kelp.Thomas Bollmann

A dinner menu was built around a range of exquisite wines. Partygoers sipped on a special selection from Domaine de le Romanée-Conti – an estate in Burgundy, France, that produces some of the world’s leading white and red wine.Thomas Bollmann

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A former sous chef of Daniel Boulud, Melissa Rodriguez is executive chef at New York’s famed Al Coro. She flew to Toronto to help serve up a special menu for the event. “Chef Daniel asked me [to take part] – he’s a mentor and friend, so it’s always a pleasure to join him.”Thomas Bollmann

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Adam Halpern and wife, Amanda, take in the scene. Adam joined his father Todd at Halpern Enterprises, where he plays a key role in managing company operations.Thomas Bollmann

Guests took in a striking piece of art by acclaimed Canadian artist Jane Waterous, best known for her sculpture-like series using three-dimensional figures that appear as if they’re jumping off the canvas. The painting was auctioned off at the event for more than $1-million and will be placed at Toronto General Hospital, where visitors can enjoy its depth, colour and positive messaging.Thomas Bollmann

Chef Boulud with long-time friend and Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival founder Todd Halpern. “I’m so impressed by what Todd has done in the past almost 20 years – raising funds for such an important cause,” says Boulud. “Grand Cru has always been this incredible weekend of food and wine, of having a collection of chefs cooking in different homes around town – all to support medical research. It’s wonderful.”Thomas Bollmann

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with UHN Foundation. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.