Leanne Rabinowitz, Food Services Coordinator, at Eva’s Phoenix, and Eugene Silva, Chef, at Eva’s Place, pose for a photo.

Eugene Silva believes that food can fix almost anything.

“Food feeds not only the body but the soul, too. You can think better and do better when your stomach is full,” said the head chef at Eva’s Place, our 25-bed emergency shelter in North York.

He should know. Eugene has been cooking for our youth for over 25 years. He’s seen a lot of young people come and go through our doors and his mission has always been simple.

“We have staff who can help youth in lots of ways, but the only thing I can offer is a good smile and good food. I try to build relationships with them, learn what they like and bring them that comfort that comes with food,” he said.

He plans the four-week rotational menus – hearty dishes in fall/winter; lighter, BBQ-based food in spring/summer – and cooks three meals every day using deliveries from Second Harvest and the North York Harvest Food Bank, plus a small monthly grocery budget.

Eugene’s kitchen opens early each morning with breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, bagels with cream cheese and hashbrowns or a breakfast sandwich. Two kinds of cereal, toast, coffee and tea are also available.

He sends youth who have school or work off with a bagged lunch and puts together a simple lunch in his kitchen for others. Two healthy snacks are available throughout the day and dinner could be lasagna, Shepherd’s pie or beef stew, depending on the day. All the food is Halal, and he accommodates vegetarians and vegans.

His soft spot for youth is evident in the weekly “fun food” meals that include pizza, burgers, or chicken nuggets and fries. “They’re teenagers, so I try to spoil them sometimes,” he said.

No matter what he’s serving, Eugene says he takes pleasure in seeing the residents enjoy his food. “To me, the best feeling is when they come back to my serving window after they eat and they say, ‘Eugene, it was a very good meal, thank you very much.’ That’s a huge reward for me.”