Chef Bertus Basson – of Overture, Eike, Spek & Bone and De Vrije Burger fame – has joined forces with fellow Stellenbosch restaurateurs and wine producers to support local communities in this time when livelihoods are being seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The chefs and their respective kitchen crews have set up a soup kitchen that now produces just over 20 000 meals per week.
Chef Bertus, with his crew, has received funding from the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund to assist with the incredible initiative called Tasting Stellenbosch. This collaboration between restaurateurs and wine producers then joined forces with aid response project Stellenbosch Unite.
Bertus, like many of his colleagues, has long been involved with community feeding schemes alongside his regular restaurant business. But he realised that the pandemic crisis had created a far greater need than they were servicing. “The restaurant community came together in a selfless and truly inspiring way to confront these social challenges people are facing. No child, woman or man should go to bed hungry,” says Bertus. “We will keep going for the next few months and recruit more chefs to increase capacity and feed even more people.”
On advice to those in the industry wanting to start up a feeding scheme, the chef shares these words: “Identify the need in your community and just get going. You have to start somewhere. People that work in hospitality understand generosity. Phone friends to assist you. Together we are stronger. It does not have to be a grand scheme. A little bit goes a long way.”
Of course, it doesn’t come without its challenges: “The first obstacle is financial – securing ingredients to work with, but people have opened their hearts and we have received a lot of donations,” shares Bertus. “The logistics of getting the food to the communities in need is also a challenge. Luckily, there is not a shortage of willing hands and we have found people to be very generous and accommodating.”
Bertus advises that those starting a scheme should first decide whether to supply hot or cold food and to manage the temperature as best you can. “It helps a lot to find a transport partner to transport the food,” he adds. “Try and connect with community volunteers for the distribution of the meals. This means we as chefs are doing what we are good at – cooking delicious food.”
When it comes to the meals provided, Bertus explains the importance of nutrition-sensitive feeding. “Freshness of ingredients; fresh vegetables are very important. Try and load the dishes with as much as possible plant-based protein,” he explains. “Meat is expensive and presents different challenges. It helps to connect with local farmers in your area that have produce available.”
At the end of the day, our industry and our communities need to band together now more than ever; it’s all about teamwork. “If you have time to give, connect with local or existing feeding schemes in your area and donate time assisting with logistics or cooking. It is important that the food you cook gets to the people that need it most – connect with organisations that can help you with the supply chain.”
In addition to Bertus, other participants in the Tasting Stellenbosch effort include Spier Wine Estate, Neethlingshof (Brendan Stein), Gåte at Quoin Rock (James Would), Jardine Restaurant (George Jardine), Longtable at Haskell (Cornelle Minnie), Lanzerac (Stephan Fraser), Hussar Grill, Blaauwklippen, Table at De Meye and De Warenmarkt.
They are supported by Stellenbosch-based event hire company Ten of Cups, whose owner Eddie van Lamp has committed a location and production kitchen with all necessary equipment. Adventure Centre in Stellenbosch has made its vehicles and staff available to help transport the soup from the production centres to the communities.
Members of the public can back the project with financial contributions as well as donations of dry goods. For information, visit stellenboschunite.org.