June’s, a unique pop-up restaurant in Toronto, is the world’s first ever eatery with kitchen staff that are all HIV-positive.
‘We really wanted to be able to challenge the stigma that still exists around HIV,’ Joanne Simons of Casey House told The Guardian. Casey House is Canada’s only stand-alone hospital for people living with HIV and AIDS. The restaurant is named after Casey House founder and Canadian activist June Callwood.
The idea for the restaurant was born after a survey of Canadians found that only half of respondents would share food with or eat food prepared by someone with HIV.
While HIV cannot be spread via food preparation, fourteen HIV-positive chefs are working with June’s to break this stigma with a campaign called Break Bread, Smash Stigma.
‘Talking about food and contraction highlights the massive challenge that our clients experience every day,’ Simons told The Star. ‘We wanted to open up the public conversation to talk about the stigma associated with it and what has happening to HIV because the diagnosis rates are still extremely high. We want to challenge this notion around blame and shame.’
June’s Eatery opens, both nights sold out
June’s Eatery opened last week (7-8 November) and featured two four-course dinners (one for each night) made by the HIV-positive chefs for $125 [£74.73; €84.50]. Both nights were completely sold out.
The chefs cooked delicacies such as northern Thai potato leek soup and gingerbread Tiramisu while wearing aprons with slogans like ‘Kiss the HIV+ cook’ and ‘I got HIV from pasta. Said no one ever.’
With such a strong demand, another restaurant run by HIV-positive staff may be in the works.
‘We’d love to be able to do it in places like New York and San Francisco and London,’ Simons told Reuters.
According to 2014 national estimates, about 75,500 Canadians were living with HIV, which is a 9.7% increase since 2011.
GSN has reached out to Casey House requesting an interview.