Last month, lucky residents of Johannesburg, Cape Town and other South African cities got to sample cuisine from Thailand, Russia and Saudi Arabia, plus more than 40 other countries all in the name of charity. The World Chefs Tour Against Hunger brought together 250 chefs from 44 countries to raise money for a handful of local children’s charities.
Miroslav Kubec is the Executive Chef at the InterContinental Praha, President of the Association of Chefs and Pastry Chefs of the Czech Republic and WACS (World Association of Chefs Societies) Continental Director for Central Europe. He coordinated a team of local chefs from WACS and the country had a second team made up of members from the Czechoslovak Society of Chefs. The tour was arranged by the South African Chefs Association and the Academy of Chefs, under the auspices of the World Association of Chefs Societies.
“I am very pleased that we managed to represent our country and Czech gastronomy very well,” Kubec told Czech Position. “The event aimed to collect 5 million Rand (about €500,000) and at the end of the event we reached almost €800,000. This is a respectable amount that can at least partially help to reduce the starvation of children.”
The week-long event saw chefs feeding children, showing off their country’s cuisine in culinary theaters or participating in one of three fundraising gala dinners held across the country. The money raised will be able to provide more than 800,000 meals to 450 children in need for the next five years.
This was third event, and organizers were overwhelmed with the generosity of the chefs involved, who took time off work and paid their own airfare to participate. Proceeds raised will be donated to the Akani Diepsloot Foundation, African Children’s Feeding Scheme and Meals on Wheels Community Services, as well as various other regional charities.
“The past 12 days have created many friendships, opened up the minds and hearts of many chefs from many countries; this resulting in a combined effort to help fight the scourge of hunger and malnutrition,” said Dr. Bill Gallagher, founder and patron of the World Chefs Tour Against Hunger in a press announcement after the event.
“The chefs who came to South Africa from around the world will never be the same again; meeting the children of Soweto, Alexandra, Diepsloot to name but a few will certainly leave a special place in their hearts. They came to create awareness for the charities, raise as much funds as possible, share friendship and knowledge — their mission was certainly accomplished!”
Cooking and serving
“I took part in expeditions to the slums where we cooked end distributed meals to children,” Kubec said. “One of my other activities was an hour show in a shopping centre open kitchen where I introduced Czech cuisine.” He added during this show he prepared chicken with a paprika cream sauce and crepes with forest berries.
“Our chefs cooked mostly Czech cuisine, traditional potato soup, baked pork with sauerkraut and dumplings, Svíčková sauce with bun dumplings, venison, goulash, fruit yeast dumplings and homemade pies,” he said.
While the hungry public benefited, as will the charities; chefs too learned a few new things. “I saw lots of new ingredients and experienced lots of tastes,” Kubec said. “Every trip is very motivating for me and I always try to include newly acquired knowledge into my normal professional life.”
The children came first
While the camaraderie of a bunch of chefs from around the world talking shop certainly can’t be overlooked, it was meeting the potential beneficiaries of their hard work, the children themselves that left the most impact. Mr. Kubec says it was visiting the slums, meeting the children and seeing their happy eyes and hearing their heartfelt thanks that he will remember most from his trip.
“It is hard to understand and imagine these situations when you have not experienced it,” he said. “I have one special and unforgettable experience. During the food distribution I met a little boy. I asked him to take photo with me and gave him a bag full of food. After the picture, he returned the bag with the words, “I already got one.” He thought that the food was only the “picture gift”… that’s impossible to forget.”
Jacy Meyer is a Prague-based freelance writer