When Adelaide-based cook and fermenter Mandy Hall saw what peer, chef and author Olia Hercules was doing with Cook For Ukraine, she was floored. "I had been following Olia Hercules for a long time," says Hall. "I reached out really about fermentation just prior to this all happening," says Hall.
All "this" was the terror coming directly from Hercules' birth country of Ukraine and where the London-based food writer's family still reside. This spurred Hercules on to create Cook For Ukraine, a social media community, supper club and recipe hub.
Back in Adelaide, Mandy Hall watched Hercules' stories and posts – not just of food under the #CookForUkraine hashtag, but also of Hercules sharing her family's plight back in Ukraine – and wanted to do something locally. "It was such an insight into the personal side of war. I couldn't imagine that pain and terror," says Hall. "The only way I could do anything was to raise some funds for people that were displaced, really quickly, that would comfort and help them in some way."
The solution was a silent auction, so Hall reached out to friends in hospitality, and the donations came in thick and fast. Hall initially planned to manage the project through her Instagram, before it snowballed and became much bigger, so she called upon hospitality back-end developers and graphic designers who also offered up their skills. The result is a silent auction with a pool of prizes donated generously by the Australian hospitality industry, with all funds raised going to Unicef's Ukraine appeal, via Cook for Ukraine.
"You almost forget how incredibly warm and generous hospitality is. Then they just rally, every time," says Hall. "If we're on fire, in floods, in celebration, in death, food is at the center of it. And these people and this industry stand up every time."
Live auction items include a cooking class with Tony Tan for eight; wine by Ochota Barrels; and a gin masterclass with Never Never Distilling. The cause is still open to more donations from the hospitality industry and of course more bids from the wider community, with more than $22,000 already raised, thanks to kind donations from restaurants including Fino Vino, Leigh Street Wine Room, Smith & Daughters, Peel St, Soi 38 and more.
There are plans to keep the movement going through collaborative dinners, fermentation classes and more.
"It's unreal," says Hall. "It restores your faith in humanity."