Food & Culture

Bennelong, Cutler & Co, Nomad and more are using their kitchens to cook for those in need – and you can join in

Gather a team of volunteers for OzHarvest’s new fundraiser and cook under the watchful eye of some of Australia’s best chefs.

By Jordan Kretchmer
Bennelong's Peter Gilmore at a previous cook-off.
OzHarvest is launching its new fundraiser, the Community Cookoff, next week, running from May 2 to May 16. It's a new incarnation of The CEO cookoff – a yearly flagship event for Australia's leading food rescue organisation.
Gather together a team of fundraising volunteers for the chance to cook nourishing meals for those in need in some of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane's best restaurants, under the watchful eye of some of Australia's most decorated chefs – including Danielle Alvarez, Matt Moran, Peter Gilmore and O Tama Carey. Participating Sydney restaurants include Cirrus Dining, Mimi's, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Kitchen by Mike and more; plus Gerard's Bistro will partake in the action in Brisbane; Cutler & Co will represent Melbourne.
Refettorio by OzHarvest's dining room Photo: Nikki To
In order to host the event kitchens will pause typical services; and a minimum fundraising contribution of $2000 is needed from individuals or teams for their chance to secure a spot in the kitchens. In doing so, participants will be giving back two fold: cooking nourishing meals for those in need; while also contributing financially to keep the indispensable work of OzHarvest going. No prior cooking experience is required – the chefs will use their knowledge on the night to help everyone to create beautiful meals for people in need.
Peter Gilmore – who will open the Bennelong kitchen in this capacity for the first time – is more than ready to pull together teams to cook meals, no matter what their cooking experience is. "We have loved being part of OzHarvest's CEO Cook Off in years gone by, and we are looking forward to welcoming people into the Bennelong kitchen," says Gilmore. Alongside head chef Rob Cockerill he'll lead teams to cook up braised lamb shanks with Israeli couscous, and a kasundi and cucumber raita.
Colin Fassnidge and volunteers at a previous cook-off. Photo: courtesy of OzHarvest
Meanwhile OzHarvest's own new venue Refettorio will also be swinging open its doors. Head chef Jez Wick explains that while the restaurant's sole purpose is already cooking for those in need, it will be a special chance to show off the space to new people. "I'm just so excited to have people in this wonderful space, creating meals together that will reach far and wide," says Wicks. "It's an amazing opportunity for Refettorio to be used for even more amazing purposes." Wicks will lead a team to cook meals typical to the Refettorio roster, like beetroot masala curry, ricotta and black cardamom dumplings and delicious pickles. "I want everyone on the night to feel the beauty and warmth this space brings and how it is positively impacting those who get to eat here every day," says Wicks.
In a statement OzHarvest founder and CEO Ronni Kahn sums the event and the wider industry up so well: "What makes this event so special is that it's hosted in partnership with our incredible hospitality industry, who have shown the importance of strength, resilience and connection in challenging times. The philosophy of the CookOff is all about sharing food with dignity and respect and we're thrilled that some of Australia's best chefs and restaurants have agreed to transform their fine dining spaces into food relief hubs for one night." After two years of Covid-uncertainty, bushfires and floods, OzHarvest's work to battle food wastage and insecurity has never been more valuable. Registrations are still open for teams or individuals for Sydney (Monday May 2), Brisbane (Wednesday May 11) and Melbourne (Monday May 16).
Sign up or donate at communitycookoff.com.au or by emailing cookoff@ozharvest.org
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