It used to be known as Corporate Social Responsibility, a term that today seems perfectly inadequate when describing the generosity in foodservice. It is not an add-on, a nice-to-have, but to many a fundamental part of the work they do, baked into the business, whether it consist of delivering humanitarian aid in far-away countries, supporting the disadvantaged nearer to home, affecting positive change for sustainability; or highlighting mental health challenges in the profession. In the following pages Elsie Clark and Tina Nielsen profile a small selection of those in foodservice who make a positive difference beyond the kitchen.
JAGGER GORDON, FOUNDER, FEED IT FORWARD
Chef Jagger Gordon is a pioneer of the culinary scene in Toronto, Canada, and not just because of the creative cuisine he serves up for his private dining experiences. Dismayed by the amount of food he saw go to waste in kitchens while others went hungry, Gordon set up Feed It Forward, a charitable organization dedicated to eliminating food waste and providing nutritious meals for those who need it most.
Gordon says he wants to create a society where food is ‘not a privilege but a right’. He strives for this goal on multiple fronts, whether through the original Feed It Forward kitchen, which provides free meals made from diverted food waste, or the Seed to Feed farm where the local community collaborates in growing fresh produce together and the surplus harvest is used to make meals in the charity kitchen.
Beyond Toronto, Gordon uses his platform to campaign against food inequality and hopes his initiatives will be adopted across Canada and even worldwide. The latter he has already begun through the development of a free Feed It Forward app, available in multiple languages, which facilitates food sharing and aims to eliminate kitchen waste at a local level.
“[I] dream of a world where everyone can enjoy a nutritious meal without barriers, where the act of sharing food becomes a universal language of compassion and community support,” says Gordon.
DIEUVEIL MALONGA, FOUNDER, CHEFS IN AFRICA
Dieuveil Malonga was named among the Champions of Change by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants last year. His MEZA restaurant in Kigali, Rwanda opened in 2020, but he has long been making waves in the culinary world through his social enterprise, Chefs in Africa, founded in 2016.
Born near Brazzaville, Congo, but trained in Germany, Malonga is committed to spotlighting Africa’s rich culinary heritage. Chefs in Africa aims to raise the low international profile of African cuisines and chefs, while celebrating the rich gastronomic diversity, unique ingredients, and traditional methods of all the diaspora’s different regions. The program supports emerging culinary talents from across the continent by securing training, tools, and exposure that they might not otherwise have access to as a result of social or economic injustice. For his efforts in supporting native talent and regional cuisine, Malonga was honored as a finalist in the Basque Culinary World Prize in 2018.
ASMA KHAN CHEF-OWNER, DARJEELING EXPRESS
Raised in Kolkata but now a star of the British restaurant scene, Asma Khan is committed to giving back to fellow female South Asian immigrants. Since opening in 2017, Darjeeling Express, her Indian restaurant in central London, has employed a cohort of South Asian housewives who before joining the team had never worked professionally in foodservice before. Through hiring people in this way Khan aspires to provide opportunities to women and preserve the essence of her restaurant, which began as a supper club in her own house serving home-cooked meals.
Khan further recognizes the significance of her beginnings in foodservice by allowing her restaurant, when closed, to be used by aspiring chefs hosting supper clubs. Outside of nurturing early culinary careers, Khan in 2019 flew to Iraq to open an all-women café in a refugee camp for survivors of ISIS and is also founder of the Second Daughters Fund, a charity which encourages families in India to celebrate the birth of second daughters. “I’m a second daughter, so are most of my staff. In our culture, having a daughter is expensive, there are dowries, gold and gifts. The second daughter’s arrival can be like a death,” she explained to Foodservice Consultant in 2019. “I want to get [the fund] running so we pay for a party after the baby is born to celebrate her birth and continue to support her through her education.”
For Khan, her work to promote and support women is as important to her as her restaurant: “I see myself as not just a restaurateur, I try to highlight issues, things no one else will say. I’m the voice of the voiceless and it’s a misconception that women can’t take the heat.”
JIM PETERSEN FCSI, PRESIDENT, C.I.I. FOOD SERVICE DESIGN
Jim Petersen graduated from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration in 1973 and has worked in foodservice ever since, founding his own company, C.i.i. Food Service Design, in 1979. Based in the Midwest of the USA, Petersen takes pride in giving back to the local community, having worked as a firefighter for his local station since 1988.
Inspired by his wife Kathy, Petersen has also undertaken several mission trips abroad and is an active member of the Lapeer Kiwanis Club, having previously served as its president. The Club is dedicated to fundraising initiatives that benefit the residents of Lapeer County, Michigan and is run entirely by volunteers. The association is currently aiming to raise $1.5m to fund an inclusive playground for local children and hosts regular events that strive to put the fun in fundraising, including a variety show, rubber duck racing, and golfing competitions.
For his charitable endeavors, Petersen was honored as the 2014 recipient of FCSI’s Robert Pacifico Doing Well by Doing Good award. “I enjoy what I do and have no plans to retire any time soon,” he says. “I consider myself blessed to be able to remain actively involved with my community and will continue as long as I am physically able to, which I hope will be a long time.”
JOSÉ ANDRÉS, CHEF AND FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN
The Spanish chef, resident in the US for many years now, needs no introduction. The owner of a number of restaurants, including Jaleo in Washington DC and Mercado Little Spain in the Hudson Yards development in New York City, he has become known the world over as the man behind World Central Kitchen, launched to deliver humanitarian aid in places at a time of crisis.
Stepping into any situation, from natural disasters to war zones, World Central Kitchen mobilizes local foodservice operators and chefs to quickly establish large scale operations that feed people in need.
Andrés started World Central Kitchen in response to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and since then he has built a substantial team of operations, able to respond quickly and effectively. The sight of the canopies and mobile kitchens with people serving up soups and sandwiches is becoming increasingly familiar, largely due to a world that is experiencing more challenges.
Andrés recently spoke on the Spanish podcast Quédate a Comer (loosely translated as Stay for dinner) about what he sees as a polarized world in difficulties. “We are in a moment where in the next few years we will see massive migration, for each conflict there will be more, there are climate changes that will leave more space on earth uninhabitable and we need to start investing to mitigate this,” he said. His travels around the world has made him a fervent proponent of stepping into the unknown – coming closer together and taking away the unfamiliarity is key to solving many problems, said Andrés.
“The world is wonderful and we have to get out more, to get to know more and see other places where people don’t live as well as we do, where there has been conflicts,” he said. “The more you know, the more you realize that the people who are not like you, it’s not that they are worse, or they are bad they are just different. People enrichen you – the more I travel the richer I am.”
KRIS HALL, FOUNDER, THE BURNT CHEF PROJECT
Launched in 2020, as a photography campaign, The Burnt Chef Project started out as a series of black and white photos of hospitality professionals. Each photo was accompanied by a conversation with the individual about mental health. “It was a way to say ‘there’s more going on than you think. You never really know what goes on in the shadow parts of the brain’,’” says founder Kris Hall about this first attempt at challenging the stigma around mental health.
Hall had 15 years’ experience working in hospitality and had moved into sales and marketing within the food industry when he found himself juggling ill mental health, which spiralled and saw him suffering with anxiety that affected his relationship with food, drink and drugs. “I never got to the root cause because I didn’t know enough about myself to understand there was a problem and I had no idea I could get help for it,” he explains.
Eventually a therapist helped him through it and the experience encouraged him to start the project that would get people to talk about their mental health and removing the stigma. The project snowballed, and Hall found himself going to kitchens to talk about “the things that we don’t normally talk about”. The Burnt Chef Project launched in May 2019.
The project grew with more training programs and structures being established to provide support, training, awareness and strategy campaigns in more than 72 countries worldwide and the project was recently confirmed as global social enterprise. It supported a lot of professionals through the pandemic and the increased awareness has led to an even greater need for the support it offers.
“We are facing a crisis of epidemic proportions, so, it is a necessity,” he says. “We need to do more to protect those who are struggling.”
GREG MANGHAM FOUNDER, ONLY A PAVEMENT AWAY
Mangham has five decades of experience in hospitality, starting as a pot wash and rising to become a small pub chain manager and consultant. “That’s the fantastic thing about this sector and why it can help so many people,” he says. “It’s a true meritocracy.”
In 2018 he put his network of contacts into good use by establishing Only A Pavement Away, a UK-based charity dedicated to helping homeless people off the streets by securing them long-term jobs in the hospitality industry. He was inspired to tackle the problem after a walk down The Strand in London with his wife and seeing how many people were sleeping rough while so many hospitality jobs went unfilled.
The charity’s name serves as a reminder that these individuals, often forced onto the streets due to circumstances beyond their control, are ‘only a pavement away’ from a stable job as chef, barista, or waiter in a nearby hotel or restaurant. Mangham envisioned a single solution whereby businesses could find employees and the homeless, of which 280,000 are registered in the UK, constructive careers.
The organization aims to help 9,250 people find employment over the next five years and has expanded to include veterans and exoffenders in its program. “Only A Pavement Away has enabled the industry to get behind this cause. People have never asked me ‘Why should we help?’, just ‘How can we help’,” says Mangham.
NORA FITZGERALD BELAHCEN, FOUNDER, AMAL
Named among the Champions of Change in the 2023 edition of the World’s 50 Best restaurants, the American-Moroccan chef launched Amal in 2012 to offer women a pathway out of poverty. She has since channelled her skills to offer training in the culinary arts to women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Moroccan women rarely make it into the labor market – just 25% of them work in a formal capacity. Belahcen recalls a woman who was part of the project in the early days who had worked her whole life since the age of 10 but had no money to show for it due to the very low wages.
“Consider all the invisible labor that women do that is unvalued, unaccounted for and unpaid; these women want to be acknowledged and honored,” she says. “I don’t see them as victims waiting to be saved but as genuine experts in living in scarcity. There’s a beautiful teaching in Morocco of wanting for your fellow humans as good as what you have yourself.” Having started with just a couple of women in the setting of a small bakery, today there’s a 300-strong alumni group of Amal.
Since Belahcen spoke to Foodservice Consultant in the summer of 2023 a terrible earthquake struck Morocco and she immersed herself in the humanitarian efforts to help fellow citizen who had bene caught up in the Following the earthquake, she assembled a group to deliver humanitarian aid and raise funds to continue the efforts. “I’ve never worked this hard physically or mentally. I’ve woken up at 4am every day with my mind and heart racing. There’s a lot of details to manage but also the sheer magnitude of the crisis is just crushing,” she wrote on Instagram.
“We are all dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder each in our own way. The rumble of a passing truck can stop me in my tracks, waiting to see if it’s the rumble of an earthquake.” Along with her team of women from Amal, many of them from the villages affected by the disaster, Belahcen continues to provide food and shelter to victims.
JUAN MATAMOROS FCSI, CEO, FOOD GURUS CENTRAL AMERICA
Another foodservice consultant who has launched a community project with Food for The Soul. His motivation behind the initiative, he says, are gratitude and social responsibility. “I wanted to go beyond positively impacting HoReCa sector businesses,” he says. At the heart of the project, developed with his wife Diana, is the aim to provide emotional education and mental health support for young people and children. “We spend our days feeling overwhelmed by the demands of modern life; our work responsibilities push us to focus more on the material and neglecting elements of our wellbeing such as emotions, building strong relationships, self-love and moments of tranquillity,” explains Matamoros. In this initial phase of the project the team has launched in El Salvador, the home country of Matamoros, while the longer-term aim is to expand to all Central American countries. Fundraising efforts to sustain the project have begun and anybody wishing to support Food for The Soul can do so on www.foodforsoul.org.