The Covid-19 Pandemic has caused immense pressure in communities around the country. Unemployment has ramped up, leaving many desperate for a solid meal. In response, a collaborative network of chefs have been using surplus food that would otherwise have gone to waste to create nutritious, delicious meals for vulnerable communities. Under the banner Chefs with Compassion, these chef heroes have been putting their lockdown time, and talents, to good use, and since the beginning of April have cooked over 400 000 meals!

Says NOSH Food Rescue’s Hanneke van Linge, “In our six years of operation, we’ve come to understand the vital role that the restaurant industry plays in our food systems. In a country like South Africa that is marked by both a high-calibre hospitality sector and extreme hunger, we have to find innovative ways to work together and find real solutions to our social plights.”

NOSH Food Rescue, in collaboration with Thava Indian Restaurant in Norwood, spearheaded the project at the beginning of April. “A project like Chefs with Compassion has long been part of our bigger picture and the current lockdown situation realised and scaled our pilot project with Chef Philippe Frydman and Thava Restaurant faster than we could ever have anticipated,” says Hanneke. “We now have solid proof of concept: it is a powerful and efficient way to distribute delicious, nourishing food to where it is needed most.”

In its first week, what was to become known as Chefs with Compassion, consisting of three ‘kitchens’, produced 2 355 meals for nine beneficiary organisations. Since then, the movement has grown in leaps and bounds and has become a national initiative driven by an alliance of organisations and companies, namely NOSH Food Rescue NPC, Slow Food International, the South African Chefs Association, Slow Food Chefs Alliance SA, and Strategic PR. In Week 7 of Chefs with Compassion, between 18 and 24 May, 24 112 tonnes of rescued produce was sent to 30 kitchen hubs run by compassionate owners, where volunteer chefs produced 42 220 meals.

So how does it work? The journey starts with a team of passionate food waste warriors from NOSH Food Rescue, through their relationship with farmers, retailers and  produce agents at the market, rescuing a portion of the produce which would otherwise have been discarded and destroyed at the market. From there it is transported to the warehouse, where another team of volunteers sorts the true waste from what can be utilised to feed people who would otherwise go hungry. Says van Linge, “The supply of rescued produce is, by nature, unpredictable and subject to demand by buyers and the discretion of the agents who provide us with the surplus. This means that, for example, last week we received close to 1 700 tonnes of lettuce. You’d be surprised what creative chefs can concoct out of a few lettuces.”

The registered hubs then collect the food from the closest collection point to bring back to their kitchens and start cooking! Beneficiary organisations collect the soups or casseroles that have been prepared, for distribution to their recipients. In Johannesburg, the chefs, kitchens and restaurants preparing meals as hubs in the Chefs with Compassion initiative are Alra Park Community Forum, Bizza’s Liestyle, Bun’s Out, Busisiwe – B TwalaB, Carol Osuigwe, Chef Mahlamola Thamae, Chef Pinky Maruping and Tebogo Ramatsui of Unilever Food Solutions, Chef Raynor Damons, Chef Citrum Khumalo, Disoufeng Pub, Ejardini, Hospitality Cares, Jackson’s Real Food Market, Jeanette Osuigwe, Chef Lance Williamson, Love Me So, Perron, Saigon Suzy, Swiss Hotel School, Taste-Buds Cooking Club, Thathimvuyo Caterers, Thava Indian Restaurant, The Curry Boss, The Local Grill, The Noble, and V8 Roadhouse.

Get Involved

Donations can be made via Zapper or EFT and corporate donations qualify for a Section 18A certificate. For more information and to make a contribution go to www.chefswithcompassion.org.za, or email info@chefswithcompassion.org.za.

You can register your kitchen as a hub by clicking here or you can register as a volunteer by clicking here 

In aid of Mandela Day, the challenge is on to cook up 67 000 litres of soup! You can either collect rescued ingredients from a collection point and cook, or you can donate towards the ingredients cost. Click here to find out more.

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