As a self-employed chef, Chef Jason Whitehead realised very quickly that he’d have to find a way to keep himself busy during lockdown. Enter, the lockdown cookbook.
A combination of recipes and daily diary entries (and beautiful images shot by Jason himself with his iPhone 11 Pro Max), what sets the cookbook apart is that half of the proceeds from each book go to Streetscapes. “I knew that there would be so many people out there that had a lot less than I did, like a roof over their heads, or a warm plate of food, so it felt like the right thing to do to give the majority of whatever income was generated through my book to an NGO that helps those less fortunate,” says Jason.
Having worked with Streetscapes over the years, Jason had seen firsthand the amazing work they do with the homeless community. “The money that they receive is used to help build organic veggie gardens in and around Cape Town, and it is here that they create work opportunities for people living on the streets, giving them a sense of purpose as well as income,” says Jason. “They are paid with weekly stipends raised from donations as well as sales of the fruit, vegetables and herbs that are grown in the gardens and then sold to the public as well as restaurants.”
During the lockdown the Streetscapes team have been very busy, providing services to both their existing programme beneficiaries (75 people) as well as those not in the programme, but on the streets. “It’s been an exciting (and exhausting!) time. We helped new people to move onto our farm in Kuilsriver, building new block units to accommodate a larger group, and we also opened up a second house in Walmer Estate for 26 people,” says Jesse Laitinen from Streetscapes.
Each person in the programme costs Streetscapes R4000 p/m, and so Jesse says that the donations from Jason’s book will help so much. “We can use the funding to pay their stipend and cover some of the psychosocial costs. This means a new chance in life for many who have lived on the streets for years or decades. They will get access to home, work and holistic support including health.”
Jason’s Lockdown Insights
What are some of your favourite elements in the book?
Besides all the delicious recipes you mean?! I would have to say my daily diary entries. Some days were better than others, obviously, but I tried to stay real and be honest about how I was feeling, hence the odd swear word here and there.
How has your lockdown been so far? Any survival tips you’d like to share?
I am incredibly fortunate that I have some family staying with me, as well as the boyfriend of course, so there is never a dull moment. Saying that, it is because of this that I have come to realise how important some alone time is: reading a book, playing with the fur-children, doing some of the house work I have been putting off for forever and a day, or simply just sitting in silence with your own thoughts. Also, it’s important to make an effort to reach out to your friends and family that are alone during lockdown, whether it be a FaceTime chat or just a message to let them know that you are thinking about them.
Have you got any advice for other chefs during this time?
Yes! We chefs have the skills to feed and nourish the millions of people in South Africa that don’t all have access to a daily meal, and no matter where you are in the country, there are organisations that are making food for these people and could always use an extra set of skilled hands. You just need to look on social media to find these organisations and other chefs who are doing their bit to help those less fortunate. If you need some advice on where you can help, you can reach out to me and I can help you find these organisations that are in your area. Besides helping those less fortunate, even just for a day, it really makes you feel better about yourself.
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