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Homeless gain cooking masterclass

Kitchen staff from the Grand Hyatt Melbourne joined executive chef Jason Camillo to teach a cuisine masterclass to former homeless people now housed at the Magpie Nest program, who cooked up a storm at The Salvation Army’s Melbourne Project 614 on 22 March.

Ten homeless people from the Magpie Nest program are enjoying a (medium) rare opportunity to learn how to cook from some highly skilled cuisine collaborators.

masterclass from the Hyatt for homeless from magpie nest meet at Project 614

Grand Hyatt Melbourne executive chef Jason Camillo and two of his kitchen staff, ably supported by 614’s chef, Adam Thomson, and four 614 catering team staff, delivered a masterclass in cooking on 22 March. It is the first of a projected series of masterclasses for the willing pupils.

Corps officer Major Sandra Nottle told e-connect that the two-hour class celebrated the humble egg, the first culinary theme, which delivered instruction in ‘poaching and frying eggs, making omelettes, making hollandaise sauce, and creating egg and bacon muffins’.

‘Our learner chefs loved the experience,’ she added, ‘and they really enjoyed each other’s company and their guests, as well as the practical nature of cooking.

‘It may sound simple, but the life experiences that you or I may take for granted, cooking alongside Mum or Dad or siblings or grandparents; these kinds of memories are not universal.

‘Many people don’t know how to cook, and this masterclass gave our participants knowledge and confidence – they all left the class happy, and ready to book themselves in for monthly cooking masterclasses, which will all take different food themes, such as pasta, soup, etc.’

The popularity of cooking and lifestyle shows is a solid indicator that there is more to the preparation and consumption of meals than manual labour – the art of cooking and the appreciation of a tasty, nutritious meal is augmented by something deeper.

When we consider that the simple word ‘company’ can be literally rendered as ‘sharing bread’ (com = with, panee = bread) we see that there are social, spiritual, physical and mental health aspects to sharing meals.

‘It is so vital to their health, give all people access to these kinds of learning opportunities,’ Sandra added. ‘It is enormous, the impact we see in their lives, and these are simple processes that so many of us do take for granted.

‘People who have been homeless and suffered a lot in their lives can take a great sense of well-earned pride in achieving these dishes, and living and sharing life in community is essential for spiritual and mental health, whoever you are.

‘This also helps us move people beyond a poor diet – cheap party food, reheating fast food, purchasing junk food – that hinders their physical health.’

Sandra pays tribute to the generosity of chef Camillo and the Grand Hyatt team, which regularly volunteers at 614’s Hamodava Café and for several years has put on an ornate, extravagant ‘Christmas in July’ meal for 614 clients.

‘They love doing the Christmas in July event,’ she explains, ‘and giving our people a Grand Hyatt Christmas meal is a beautiful, exceptional gift.

‘These volunteers love to meet with our people; they say it keeps them grounded and reminds them of the other side of life.

‘Our volunteers leave us at the end of event and they express to us that it is an opportunity for them, not some kind of burden: they tell us they get more than they give.’  – Barry Gittins


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