Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge will give away free meals to families doing it tough in Sydney as coronavirus bites into local jobs and businesses.
The My Kitchen Rules judge, whose Sydney restaurants include the top-rated Banksia at the Banksia Hotel in the city’s south, and 4 Fourteen in Surry Hills, announced the offer on Instagram, saying he wanted to look after his community during these “hard times”.
“Everybody is doing takeaway. We’re doing takeaway from our two places, but what we realised was a lot of people who have been coming in soon won’t be able to afford takeaway or meals and have families that are doing it tough,” he said.
“Our locals are looking after us, so what we’d like to do is if you can’t feed your family and you live in the local area of Banksia, DM me on here and we’ll sort you out with food.”
Fassnidge said he would have “certain meals put by” which people could then reheat.
“We just want to look after our local community because you look after us. There won’t be a big deal made about it, but we’ll look after each other in the future,” he said.
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The chef’s generous offer has been praised by fans and fellow restaurateurs as a great example of the “Aussie spirit”.
“You have a huge heart, Fassy. Wishing you all the best to get through this, your generosity and kindness will be so appreciated by your community and beyond,” food writer and new MasterChef judge, Melissa Leong, said.
“This is amazing and so generous. Well done to you and your team,” the winner of last year’s season of MasterChef, Tessa Boersma, added.
The hospitality industry is facing an unprecedented crisis, with potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs on the line, as more Australians choose to stay away from restaurants, pubs and clubs and instead hunker down in their homes.
The government’s latest ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, and strict new limits on how many people can be inside a building at any one time, is also taking a toll.
Earlier this week, Fassnidge told The Morning Show restaurants, bars, clubs and cafes had been warned to be ready to close their doors as soon as Sunday.
He would not reveal where the directive had come from, but said he’d been told “on the quiet”.
“It’s more or less going to be Sunday or a few days after. I’m a bit worried today, so we’ll see what happens,” he said.
On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said pubs and restaurants could remain open but patrons would have to be a suitable distance apart.
THOUSANDS OF JOBS AT RISK
The Restaurant and Caterers Association (R & CA) is urging businesses to forget about profit and think only about survival, such as adding takeaway and delivery services to their repertoire.
“This is not a time to be thinking about profitability, it’s a time to be thinking about survival and R & CA is encouraging businesses to do everything they can to make sure they are best positioned to survive through this crisis,” it said.
Fassnidge said he would not be taking a wage for the coming weeks, and his business wouldn’t be “making any money”. He’s already asked his permanent staff to take paid leave, while he’s trying to keep his casual staff employed as he awaits more information.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Everyone’s saying restaurants could be closed for up to three or four weeks,” he said.
Other celebrity chefs around the world have also had to come up with creative ways to weather the storm.
Italian chef Massimo Bottura, whose three-Michelin-star restaurant Osteria Francescana was featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, has launched free “kitchen quarantine” cooking lessons on Instagram after Italy was placed in lockdown.
“This will not be an easy time, but as a people we have faced many other adversities and this virus is just another challenge,” he said.