With no tourists to cater for during the COVID-19 period, Real Journeys Walter Peak and Canyon Brewing chefs volunteered their time and skills to cook for local charity Baskets of Blessing, which provides frozen meals and surprise gift baskets to locals in need in the Queenstown community.
Canyon Brewing Restaurant provided its kitchen facilities, whilst its chefs worked alongside chefs from Walter Peak to cook up almost 1800 meals.
Walter Peak Executive Chef Mauro Battaglia says the Wayfare group’s restaurants had remained closed since ‘lockdown’ and being on the government wage subsidy with uncertain futures meant many were keen get busy in the kitchen.
“I sent out an email and just said if you’re free and want to help, let me know. Straight away I got such a good response - 13 chefs keen to work. Under the strict Alert Level 3 and 2 requirements we had to limit it to three separate teams of four chefs at a time, working two days each. We do a day’s prep then the next day we cook,” said Battaglia.
Most of the food donated for meal making was provided by Kiwi Harvest, a charity that collects good unsold food from several local supermarkets and delivers it to Baskets of Blessing. Chefs work out their meal plans from the produce on offer, cook and then freeze individual portions.
In a lovely twist, both Real Journeys and Canyon Brewing already had close links to Baskets of Blessing.
Baskets of Blessing coordinator Lee Nicolson said when Mauro Battaglia came to pick up the ingredients for the cook-up she was “able to show him the walk-in freezer filled to capacity with frozen meals - the same freezer unit that was purchased from our funds ($53,200) raised from the Real Journeys Cruise-for-a-Cause to Doubtful Sound in August last year!”
Battaglia also discovered that his Canyon Brewing colleague - sous chef Hanna Wagner was a long-time volunteer chef for Baskets of Blessing and had already cooked up over 1000 meals in her own home kitchen during lockdown before the team stepped in to help.
“Incredible - that’s what some chefs do. And obviously there will be a lot of people in need of these meals, which will grow and grow and grow. We have the knowledge and the staff able to do this right now,” said Mauro. “Working two days a week keeps you busy mentally and keeps our hope going.”
This is a great example of TSC Commitment 9 - Community Engagement: Businesses actively engage with the communities in which they operate.