Melbourne restaurants help casual workers with free waffles, tacos and onion soup

When Elisa Mariani and her team at Richmond’s Mayday Cafe heard about the Melbourne lockdown extension, they went straight to the cold room.

“We checked out what would be good for an additional week and determined what needed to be used,” she says. They found ingredients for the waffles, made them, decorated them with heart-shaped syrup scribbles, and gave the treats away for free.

“We prefer to cook for people who find [lockdown] difficult than throwing food, ”she said. “We know a lot of people have lost their income and they’re doing it really hard.

Mayday is one of dozens of hotel companies that have jumped into action with free dining programs, Photo: Eddie Jim



The waffle is as much a gesture as it is food. “Something small can make a big difference in how someone feels,” she says.

Mayday is one of dozens of hotel companies that have jumped into action with free dining programs, spurred by a desire to avoid food waste and a realization that so many restaurant workers are taking to week to week.

Chin Chin in town and Hawker Hall in Windsor prepare butter chicken for demobilized hotel workers. Etta in Brunswick East reused roast pork and candied beans for meal wraps. Margaux bar in Fitzroy handed out French onion soup and Kazuki in Carlton is making free Japanese curry “for our hospo friends”.

Owner of Theodore's restaurant Lily Stokes, photographer in September 2020.

Owner of Theodore’s restaurant Lily Stokes, photographer in September 2020.
Photo: Justin McManus



Meanwhile, Good Gnocchi in Carlton North donated 500 servings of spaghetti and napoli sauce this week. Owner James Eddy is happy that government financial support is on its way “but a week is a long time,” he says.

“I’m 24 and it’s only normal for someone my age to live week to week. People are running out of money right now.”

At Theodore’s in Brunswick, the family-run restaurant has extended a week of preparation for the second week of lockdown and plans to feed 150 people from the restaurant world and the wider community.

“We’ll make an ember with lentils and winter vegetables, maybe pumpkin, mushrooms and leafy greens,” says owner Lily Stokes. “We don’t have much to donate, but we have access to reasonably priced ingredients, spare containers, commercial space and we can donate labor. Why shouldn’t we contribute? “

Stokes promoted Theodore’s first giveaway on Instagram. “We got 120 responses,” she says. “It made me sick to my heart. We know how to do this, but the stress and emotions don’t get any easier.”

Taiwanese student Sheng-Kai Tsai works as a casual waiter at the city’s Pope Joan cafe. Losing shifts now is not only financially devastating, it also plunges him into the same emotional territory of 2020.

“I wasn’t making any money during the entire lockdown last year and I wasn’t getting any support out of nowhere,” he says. “When we had another lockdown I was pretty depressed. I have no idea how long this is going to last and how I’m going to support my studies and my life here.”

Her week was brightened up when Pope chef Joan Bente Grysbaek announced that she was cooking free cooking. Kai came over for pine mushroom spaghetti and baked potatoes with white pudding and jalapeño.

“It really helps,” he says. “Sometimes I don’t eat, even though I have ingredients, because I feel so anxious. This food makes me feel like someone cares about you and supports you in this country.”

The Dingo Ate My Taco food truck was prepped for Melbourne’s Rising Festival, but its cancellation meant they had $ 7,000 worth of meat to deal with. Owner Kady Simkins took to Instagram to sell it.

“Melbourne has really helped us,” she says. “We were able to sell all the food and keep our staff shifts. It made us feel that this week we could pay in advance and donate food. We let people choose between two tacos. , chips and salsa. “

They will be in Maribyrnong this weekend and expect high demand. “It’s sad,” says Simkins. “The first girl who came looked like she was about to cry. All her shifts had been canceled. People had gotten to the point where they felt they could count on their income again.”

Jack Shaw owns the wine bar and headquarters of Hope Street Radio in Collingwood. When the lockdown was announced, he quickly resurrected the 2020 Soup Project he was running with Chef Nagesh Seethiah. “We make 70 liters of soup and put it on people’s doorsteps,” he says.

Shaw believes that about half of the recipients are restaurant workers. “The hospitality industry is a difficult industry and we feel that it is all together,” he says. “It’s beautiful but it’s wider than that. Hospo takes care of everyone.”


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About Guillermo Russell

Guillermo Russell

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