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The annual Dining in the Dark event raised money to help CNIB programs

Chef Stephen Hunter samples one of his student's dishes blindfolded at the Holland College Culinary Institute recently. GRACE GORMLEY/THE GUARDIAN
Chef Stephen Hunter samples one of his student's dishes blindfolded at the Holland College Culinary Institute recently. GRACE GORMLEY/THE GUARDIAN - The Guardian

By Grace Gormley 

The Guardian 

It's dinnertime. You have to go to the grocery store, get all the ingredients, take it home to prepare the meal and finally sit down to enjoy it. 

Now, imagine doing all these simple tasks blindfolded. 

That's what the eighth annual Dining in the Dark event is all about, said Pat Hilchey, of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. 

"It's all about awareness. This is something people live with everyday, it's really a learning experience." 

Last Friday, approximately 200 guests attended the fundraiser at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown to enjoy a three course meal with wine, while wearing blindfolds. The event is based on a restaurant concept that originated in Paris and New York.  

Tickets for were $100 per person and they sold out quick, said Hilchey. 

"It really brings out your other senses. You smell the food, listen to the conversation, and enjoy the tastes." 

Friday's main course consisted of braised Island beef short ribs with caramelized onions, potato rosti, parsnips and beet chips.  

Specialists went around the tables to help newcomers find their plates and utensils, said Hilchey.  

"Some people feel overwhelmed by the blindfold and take it off. Others leave it on all for the whole night." 

But the evening wasn't just about food. Every year, around $30,000 is raised that goes towards helping Island families with vision loss, including peer support programs, recreational activities and guide dog programs. 

 Many vision loss clients from CNIB attend Dining in the Dark. 

"They realize money raised goes towards programs they're going to benefit from. They want to be apart of this." 

The dinner this year event heard from two local guest speakers, who shared their experiences living with vision loss, Darren MacDougall and Todd MacAusland. The event also hosted a silent auction and a dance to finish the night off, with music presented by FACES.  

The first ever Dining in the Dark was put on by the CNIB in 2010, in Charlottetown. The extraordinary success of the first event has inspired the launch of similar CNIB fundraisers in restaurants, hotels and universities throughout the Maritimes.  

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