Richmond surgeon starts food truck with earnings going to charities

Sharadh Sampath’s main motivation is to create a business model that donates all profits, promotes access to employment for those facing barriers to employment, and creates healthy and diverse meal options.

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You know it must be a great job if you arrive at the interview determined to turn it down, but then jump at the chance once you get the concept.

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“I was just curious, so I drove out to Richmond,” Cindy Hamilton said. “The whole way, I’m driving, I’m thinking, ‘Even if you get this job, you’re not going to take it.’

“But once I met Sharadh, the deal was sealed. I believe wholeheartedly in what he is doing and what he is trying to accomplish. ”

Sharadh is Dr. Sharadh Sampath, a Richmond surgeon who started a food truck called Cultivate to raise money for charity, and give training and work to people from marginalized and under-represented backgrounds.

“I’m super happy to be a part of this,” said Hamilton, now the manager for Cultivate after 10 years of owning Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck, which she sold in 2020.

Executive chef Ken Iaci (Joe Fortes, the Cannery, Papi’s Ristorante Italiano) and Hamilton plan a healthy, fresh menu every week, and there are always gluten-free and vegan options.

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The most recent menu featured grilled chicken fiesta salad, tempeh tacos, a delicious tuna salad croissant with exactly the right amount of mayo, and chicken tortilla soup.

The truck appears at Peace Arch Hospital on Wednesdays, and alternates between St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospital on Thursdays, Richmond and Mount St. Joseph hospitals on Fridays. Hopes are to begin catering soon.

“We’re building a business right now and getting it out there,” Hamilton said of the fledgling culinary social enterprise. “And Sharadh has big plans, it’s not just this one truck. Once we get this up and running, he said, ‘Let’s take this across Canada, and there’s no reason why more people can’t be doing this.’ “

Sampath’s grandmother, when she wasn’t rescuing animals, spent her days feeding hungry schoolchildren and bringing food to municipal workers back in India.

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Her devotion to community and her kindness inspired him. He even wrote her a letter when he was seven years old informing her he would one day help others, too, by becoming a surgeon.

Dr.  Sharadh Sampath with his food truck Cultivate at Richmond Hospital.
Dr. Sharadh Sampath with his food truck Cultivate at Richmond Hospital. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

“When Sharadh was first talking to me about this idea,” said Dr. Ekua Yorke, a colleague of Sampath’s, “I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s great,’ but I just didn’t see how he was going to implement it. He’s a busy surgeon, he’s doing all these things, and now he’s going to galvanize a group of people to come together for this cause.

“Seeing what he’s been able to do and where it’s coming to, it’s a beautiful vision, I think it’s inspirational for us all.”

Sampath had batted the idea around for a long time, focusing on a brick-and-mortar start-up.

“That idea got crushed hard with COVID, obviously,” he said.

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So he pivoted to the idea of ​​a food truck.

“You recognize that while everyone had it rough (during COVID), there were certain segments of the population, especially folks from marginalized backgrounds, that had it way worse than the rest of us,” he said, popping out from Richmond Hospital between surgeries .

“Part of the goal here is everyone in the community can feel like they are supporting growth within their own community, local charities, hospital foundations.”

The food truck idea grew out of Elevate Society, whose goals Sampath’s culinary social enterprise mirrors.

The ultimate joy would be seeing people trained at Cultivate move on and begin their own culinary project, Sampath said.

“If we can inspire folks to think,‘ Okay, if this guy can do it, maybe there’s something I can do for my community to make life just a little bit better for those less fortunate than me, ’then that would be amazing.

“If someone came back to me 20 years from now and said, ‘Hey, your truck was good, but look what I’ve done, it’s better!’ that would be a real win. ”

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