Pictured: Chef Callan Austin’s dish The Ghost Net, winner of last year’s S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility.
While the final stage of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2020 is on the back burner for now due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fine dining brand took the opportunity to talk to South African chefs that are practising social responsibility in their own communities.
Ladles of Love
Chefs Arno Janse and Liezl Odendaal of Janse & Co closed their restaurant on the 16th March before the start of lockdown, but wanted to help their community. They are working daily with Ladles of Love, a Cape Town volunteer-run charity that feeds the homeless. “Ladles of Love usually cook 400 meals a day; the first day of lockdown we cooked 800 meals and that was not enough,” say Arno and Liezl. “We are currently cooking around 2500 meals a day for Cape Town CBD and yesterday we started with 3 schools in Khayelitsha.”
As trained chefs, they have been able to help hugely in scaling up the operations. “With the massive amount of food that needs to be prepped and cooked, there is a lot of organising and physical work involved which we as chefs are used to,” say Arno and Liezl. “Today, we prepped 600 kg of vegetables, that is excluding the lunch we cooked for today. It is a lot of ingredients and a lot of pots!” Another aspect of their chef’s expertise is making the most of the ingredients on hand. “We use all the donations we receive, anything from 1000 heads of cos lettuce to 100kg of stock bones, and prepare it into a delicious and nutritious meal.”
In crisis time, the need to help your community is definitely highlighted, but it does not stop when the crisis is over, say Arno and Liezl. Janse & Co, since it first opened, has worked with Streetscapes – an NGO that supports homeless people and gives them work growing vegetables organically in urban gardens created on wasteland. “We are looking forward to working with them again in their recently acquired new garden in Kuilsriver to grow leaves and vegetables for us once we are open again.”
Franschhoek Disaster Management
South Africa’s restaurants are closed and silent during lockdown, but at the top of Franschhoek’s main street Foliage, Le Coin Francais and Epice are a hive of activity. Chefs Chris Erasmus, Margot Janse and Darren Badenhorst, together with most of the town’s chefs, student chefs and volunteers, are cooking up a storm of vegetable stews, soups and other healthy dishes. These are distributed in the community along with food parcels, co-ordinated by Franschhoek Disaster Management.
“With Franschhoek being such a hospitality driven town, it has been affected by the lockdown more than most places,” says Darren. “The domino effect of the shutdown is that our staff are heavily affected. Many of them live in the local communities and informal settlements, work hourly rates or on seasonal contracts so they are suddenly out of employment. We are trying to ensure that they are safe and well-nourished, and their families are fed.”
The teams were initially feeding 1000 families but expect the number to increase to 4000 soon, as local families without work run out of money. Liam Tomlinson and Ivor Jones and the Chefs Warehouse team have opened up the kitchen at Maison to add to capacity.
“A lot of our local suppliers have come to the party with donations of fresh produce which is really amazing,” says Darren. “Our suppliers are also going to be seriously affected by this. Not just the small-scale ones, the large ones too. If our supply chain isn’t protected we’re not going to be able to get our produce to be able to re-open our doors, so there’s another knock-on effect that people aren’t really talking about.”
Paternoster, on the Cape’s West Coast, is another town where the hospitality industry is a major source of income. Here, Chef Kobus van der Merwe of Wolfgat is working with the community and the Paternoster People’s Partnership to distribute food parcels to members of their village in need. In Hout Bay, neighbourhood restaurant Massimo’s is using donations from their clientele to cook meals for those in need in the local township of Imizamo Yethu. And last, but not least, Food Flow in Cape Town is a new initiative that aims to feed the most vulnerable while protecting the supply chain and keeping small farmers afloat. Using donations, they buy produce from small-scale farmers who would usually supply the restaurant business to make up essential vegetable boxes. These are distributed to communities facing food insecurity.