Chefs out to nourish our childrenAugust 24th, 2011 by Susan Reynard | Categories: food, hotels, industry, people, products, restaurants, social, tourism, training
The Bidvest World Chefs Tour Against Hunger is now underway in hotels and restaurants around the country. Some 250 chefs from 46 countries around the world have joined hands with around 700 local chefs to help raise awareness of and funds for the ongoing fight against hunger.
The official launch on Monday, 22 August was a celebration of culinary camaraderie: old friends getting together, making new friends and working hard to nourish the thousands of impoverished and underprivileged children nationwide. The chefs have started the tour, moving to different cities and hosting food festivals and demonstrations.
Local chefs have the opportunity to pick up some new skills and work alongside the industry’s international greats. The public can sample authentic cuisine from around the world, and participate in raising funds in a fun way for the trust that will keep hundreds of children fed every day for five years.
Just some of the comments from visiting chefs point to how close the community of chefs is:
- Günter Walder senior and junior from Austria: “This is our first time in South Africa and is a great opportunity to help people. It seems that hunger is growing and the public recognises it more, given pictures of starving people in Somalia – so far there is more awareness. It is a shock to see the big difference between how the rich and poor live in South Africa.”
- Clayton Sherrod from Birmingham, USA: “This is my third tour. I thought I had a sense of belonging on this earth but really didn’t until I came to Africa for the first time. I felt like I was at home. The first thing I thought about was the sermon ‘The eagle stirred the nest’. Bill Gallagher is already a dear friend of mine and told me to get a group together from the US in 1993 for the first tour – we sent 41 chefs. This is such an emotional time of my life – there was not a dry eye in the house. These tours have changed everyone’s lives. I have been giving back for years but after being involved in these tours, the blessings really started to flow. Some people criticise us for doing something about hunger in Africa, saying, ‘What about hunger in the US?’ It is nearly impossible for someone to starve in the US – there is no comparison to kids in the US and kids in Africa – this gives me the strength to keep doing this. It’s my 11th time in South Africa and I have a lot of friends here.”
- Colin Capon, originally from the UK, now retired in Sedgefield: “The positive side is the good that everyone is doing. It is shocking to know millions of kids are not getting food. It is also an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new friends, which is especially important when you retire.”
- Christopher Johns from Las Vegas, USA: “In Las Vegas we have a charity called ‘Chefs for Kids’. There are mega resorts and a few miles away you see poverty. I wanted to get involved when I heard about this tour, and see for myself what is happening.”
- Brian Cotterill from the UK: “It is wonderful to see the community of chefs from around the world coming together to support this important cause.”
- Markus Iten and Mirjam van Ijssel from Egypt: “This is our second tour and the problem of hunger seems to be getting bigger – it is a world affair. Even clean water and the basic commodities are in short supply. We see problems in Egypt similar to South Africa. People struggle to get the next meal, and then there is the question of how much protein is in a meal. The Middle East is going through a transformation period of instability at the moment, and it is not over. There are good things happening, with the government being dismantled, and we getting a new spirit of volunteering. Associations are more important now as we have the freedom to move. We are learning how to make money in our own countries. This tour is all about education, and food and education need to go together, for both chefs and the community. It is important to set international precedents with regards to the fight against hunger, and we have spoken to Bill Gallagher about this. We are really looking at sustainability, through vocational training of poor people who can then become earners and feed their own families, and not just feeding people.”
South African Chefs Association president, Stephen Billingham, says of the tour: “The interest in professional cookery with the school leaver market has doubled in the last five years. An event of this nature will go a long way to reaffirming the professionalism and growth of the industry. It helps secure this as a correct choice, if school leavers were unsure.
“It also shows the power of chefs when they unite for a cause. SACA is the backbone of the industry in South Africa, as well as the owner of the event. As an association we are so happy to welcome and host our fellow chefs.”
Bidvest’s group transformation executive Gillian McMahon, says the tour is a natural fit for Bidvest’s corporate culture, as a company that is all about people. It employs around 100 000 staff (75 000 in South Africa).
“We have diverse businesses and people and our chief executive Brian Joffe always says it is the people who determine our success. As almost half of our business is in food and food distribution, this tour is a natural fit. We like to get involved in projects that directly affect our business, and children are the future buyers of our food products,” she says.
Although the tour is a high profile event, Bidvest has been involved in a myriad of social responsibility initiatives for many years. Each business within the group is encouraged to run their own projects that have a bearing on their particular company, region and community in which they operate.
“Our fundamental philosophy is that giving back needs to fit what you do as a business,” McMahon explains. “It is personally heart wrenching to realise the magnitude of the problem of hunger. You see incredible hardships in South Africa. You simply cannot function if you are starving. Many children just need a break – be it education, a feeding scheme or skills development. They need support to get ahead otherwise the problem just goes back into the system. This tour is a fabulous project and may it continue to inspire people to get involved.”
Drina Engelbrecht from Meals on Wheels Community Services, one of the recipients of the trust, says there is much that the culinary industry can do daily to work closely with organisations such as Meals on Wheels. She urges restaurants and food producers to donate their “tops and tails” of fresh vegetables to the local branches of the organisation, which then cooks them up and purees them in soups and stews. What may be considered waste in a kitchen for aesthetic reasons is still nourishing and of great value to feed the many hungry people who rely on Meals on Wheels.
Operations director for Southern Sun John van Rooyen warmly welcomed all of the visiting chefs, who are being accommodated in Southern Sun hotels across the country. The group has been proud to be part of the tour programme since its inception in 1993, and encourages its staff to get involved in supporting the initiative as well.
He says there are a total of 22 food festivals being held under the auspices of “Chefs Without Borders” in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, and urges people to attend where possible. He says the tour’s Facebook page already has over 2000 friends.
Founder and co-convenor Bill Gallagher, together with co-convenor and past president of SACA Martin Kobald, as well as many chefs and support staff behind the scenes, have worked tirelessly to bring this event together. The logistics of hosting this many chefs and holding the huge numbers of events are understandably massive.
Public relations companies that have given up their time and staff to support the initiative include Strategic Public Relations, Cathy Findley Public Relations, Lesley Simpson Communications and Angelfish PR and Events.
For a full list of sponsors involved in the event, and for all festivals and demonstrations, participating hotels and restaurants, as well as to keep track of funds raised, go to www.worldchefstour.co.za.