Food & Culture

Supporting Sydney’s nurses: how Kylie Kwong and Addison Road Community Organisation are banding together to help

“It’s to say, we acknowledge what you’ve been through and what you’re going through now, and we really want to spoil you.”

By Callum McDermott
Volunteers with the Addi Road food truck. Photo: supplied
May 2021: almost two years after closing her seminal restaurant Billy Kwong, Kylie Kwong successfully opens Lucky Kwong in the newly unveiled South Eveleigh precinct. Five weeks later, Sydney enters its Delta lockdown: the city goes into hibernation mode once again.
"And I ended up being closed for 20 weeks," says Kwong. "So that was a massive comedown to me."
After more than 20 years of near-continuous work, the beloved chef found herself at a standstill.
"As the weeks went by, I realised the situation wasn't going to go away any time soon, and I thought to myself: what am I going to do?"
Hokkien noodle salad and Lucky's RPA fried rice. Photo: Kitti Gould
Kwong decided to start volunteering down at the Marrickville-based Addison Road Community Organisation, a non-profit charity that provides relief to Sydney's food insecure. Addi Road, which counts figures such as Sam Mostyn and Craig Foster among its volunteers, gave Kwong a sense of purpose during the second wave.
"[Addi Road] changed my life," says Kwong. "We packed food hampers for those in need, and it gave me this amazing sense of community."
Sydney reopened in October 2021 and so did Lucky Kwong, but Kwong continued volunteering with Addison Road. And we all know what happened next. The Omicron variant ripped through town, and we entered a new period of uncertainty.
Now, Australia's pandemic experience is in a strange moment of duality: on the one hand, after the chaos of the summer wave, life seems to be tiptoeing its way back to normal. On the other, for large swathes of us, COVID's ravages have never been more real and tragic. No one is experiencing these two realities more acutely than Australia's frontline healthcare workers. Especially nurses.
"We know [nurses] are exhausted," says Rosanna Barbero, Addi Road's CEO. "They're feeling in some ways forgotten, and it's becoming increasingly difficult because this is the third year [of the pandemic.]"
Friday afternoon pick-up. Photo: supplied
Both Kwong and Barbero wanted to acknowledge healthcare workers and the stress they're bearing.
"Kylie said, 'we have to provide meals,'" says Barbero.
"To show that we're thinking about you, we care for you, we know you're doing it tough – we can't be there next to you and do the heavy lifting, but here is a meal and it comes with love and understanding."
Every Friday until April 1, Lucky Kwong and fellow South Eveleigh restaurants Bekya Egyptian, Eat Fuh, and Pepper Seeds Thai prepare 50 meals for the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) in Sydney's Camperdown. Re's Matt Whiley has also created a non-alcoholic mandarin and peach Americano to go with each meal. Once they're ready, they're boxed up, loaded into Addison Road's refrigerated truck by volunteers, and driven to the RPA. The meals are given to a different department of the hospital each week.
RPA's midwives receive their meals. Photo: supplied
The food varies from week to week. Past dishes from Lucky Kwong have included a Hokkien noodle salad and Lucky's RPA fried rice; Bekya's koshari and Egyptian falafels; vegetarian vermicelli stir-fry from Eat Fuh; and yellow curry from Pepper Seeds Thai. Each meal comes with a printed menu alongside a message of thanks from Addison Road and the South Eveleigh restaurants.
So far, this team-up between South Eveleigh and Addison Road has been an enormous success. After an intense couple of years, Sydney's nurses are exhausted. (Look no further than this week's strike and protest throughout the CBD.)
"It's made an incredible difference, at a time when nurses have been at their lowest," says Barbero. "It's really lifted spirits."
"Even though it's only small, it's only 50 meals – if only we could do more – I think it's just an acknowledgement," says Kwong. "It's to say, we acknowledge what you've been through and what you're going through now, and we really want to spoil you."