Soup-er chefs step up to the plate (extracted from The Daily Maverick, Bianca Coleman)

By on 6-04-2020 in News

The Constitution of our fine country states: “Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water” but the sad reality is that people are starving, due to unemployment and desperate poverty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

High-profile kitchens have got together to alleviate hunger in the Stellenbosch communities. The project is an initiative of Tasting Stellenbosch, a collaboration of leading restaurateurs and wine producers, that joined forces with aid response project Stellenbosch Unite. Apart from the usual NGO feeding and food parcel distribution happening at any given time, Stellenbosch Unite co-ordinates an additional 3,300 food parcels per week, with Tasting Stellenbosch now on board with at least 5,200 portions of nutritious soup, four days a week.

Says Jeanneret Momberg, GM of Visit Stellenbosch, which is the driving force behind this initiative and the overall co-ordinator of this collaborative project: “We recognised the need for a feeding scheme almost immediately, and as the official tourism body for Stellenbosch, with established networks in place, we started putting out calls for help.” 

Soon, partners like Stellenbosch Municipality, Stellenbosch University, the Stellenbosch Civil Advocacy Network (SCAN), which is a network of community NGOs, Ranyaka, and the Greater Stellenbosch Development Trust came on board to mobilise support, raise money, put administrative measures and financial controls in place and distribute the aid to where it was needed the most. 

Momberg credits solid relationships, credible partners and ongoing collaboration with local government – and the support of Stellenbosch residents themselves – for the quick response. “We managed to raise R500,000 within the first week. It was astounding, especially when you consider that donations ranged from anywhere between R100 and R1,500,” she said.


Bertus Basson says each restaurant and production premises is fully compliant and strict protocol with regards to sanitising and protective measures are in place and adhered to at all sites. (Photo: Supplied)

According to chef Bertus Basson, who like many of his colleagues has long been involved with community feeding schemes alongside his regular restaurant business, realised the pandemic crisis had created a far greater need than they were servicing. 

“After putting out a few calls, 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. We will keep going for the next few months and recruit more chefs to increase capacity and feed even more people,” said Basson.

The chefs and their kitchen crews are souping it up for communities including Cloetesville, Devon Valley, Idas Valley, Jamestown, Kayamandi, Kylemore, Meerlust Settlement, Lanquedoc, Mountainview, Pniël, Raithby, Vlottenburg, Wemmershoek, Jonkershoek and across farm areas. Once the soup is made, it is distributed through official and existing NGO channels and community coordinators as part of the Stellenbosch Unite network, which includes some areas of Franschhoek.

Along with Basson, who’s known for restaurants Overture, Eike, Spek & Bone and De Vrije Burger, participants in the effort include Spier Wine Estate, Neethlingshof (Brendan Stein), Gåte at Quoin Rock (James Would), Jardine Restaurant (George Jardine), Longtable ((SUBS CORR)) at Haskell (Cornelle Minnie), Lanzerac (Stephan Fraser), Hussar Grill, Blaauwklippen, Table at De Meye and De Warenmarkt.

“You have to start somewhere. People that work in hospitality understand generosity,” said Basson. “You phone friends to assist you. Together we are stronger. It doesn’t have to be a grand scheme. A little bit goes a long way. The food you cook must get to the people that need it most.” His advice is to connect with organisations that can help with the supply chain.

Cornelle Minnie, chef at Longtable at Haskell Vineyards said no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. “Seeing how the communities are donating and contributing to the cause and knowing that everyone has a warm meal every day, keeps everyone going. But helping your fellow human doesn’t need motivation, it is a simple act that should be part of our daily lives, no matter the circumstances.”

There’s no difference in what goes on in the kitchen, said Minnie. “The only thing that has changed is the look and the guest enjoying the meal – or in this case soup. Pride and love is still there, just on a simpler and bigger scale.

“One looks at food a bit differently and ideas for new menus have changed for me. it is a whole new mindset, but it is something to look forward to when we open our doors again.”

Joostenberg Bistro’s chef Garth Bedford stated “we are fighting a war and we need our troops ready”. 

“We are fortunate to have the facilities and equipment to produce, even a small amount, of what’s needed to keep our community fed and in a position to work and support their families. We need to get South Africa working again. 

“Our industry is hurting and the only thing that’s really going to save it is by getting our kitchens going and our staff back to work. We need to be able to start buying from suppliers that are also deeply impacted by this. 

“We have got to get the whole machine going again.” 

As chefs, they are not just recipes and restaurants, continued Bedford. “When we are able, we should use our skills to feed and support those that are not in a position to do so themselves.”

The soup guidelines begin with hearty vegetable soup with a base of onions, potato, carrots, butternut, pumpkin plus donated vegetables (which can include sweet potato and courgettes), cooked with pulses (either lentils, soup mix, red beans, split peas, soy, etc), “Special care is taken to blend it all together for a thick soup with delicious mouth feel,” said Bedford.

“Thank you for the warm soup, our community truly appreciates it. Thanks for the difference [you make] in the lives of the needy people,” said Cloetesville community coordinator Vernon Adams.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” echoed Bettie Nieuwoudt from StellCare. “This is a fantastic opportunity and brings relief to our already stretched resources. We have to help so many people, especially now when many have lost their jobs. Our prayers have been answered.”

Financial donations can be made to Stellenbosch Unite. For information, click here. Donations of only dry goods (pulses, soup mix, barley, stock cubes, salt, curry powder, pasta (macaroni or penne) can be dropped at Eike Restaurant in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, between 10am and 5pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. Soup vegetables such as onions, potatoes, butternut, pumpkin and carrots are also welcome.

The project is specifically a response to Covid-19 and the intention is to keep going at least until September. For more information, click here or email WhatsApp or SMS messages can be sent to 062 206 8031.

Source: The Daily Maverik, Bianca Coleman

12 June 2020