Guest post: OzHarvest

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Celebrating its fifth-year milestone, the CEO CookOff (@OzHarvest) has raised a record $1.5 million, with funds still climbing. Funds raised will allow OzHarvest to deliver at least three million more meals to people in need, expand NEST its nutrition education program and its hospitality training program for disadvantaged youth, Nourish. The annual event also raises awareness on the issues of food waste, food security, and homelessness.

Monday night (7 March) saw 152 business leaders pair up with 50 of Australia’s top chefs to cook for more than 1,100 homeless and vulnerable Australians at The Cutaway, Barangaroo (@barangaroo) in Sydney and 300 guests at the International Royal Convention Centre in Brisbane.

The event serves as a reminder that food security is a confronting issue facing up to two million Australians. Guests dining on the evening were invited from across the hundreds of welfare agencies and charities that OzHarvest supports including homeless shelters, youth, women and men’s refuges, crisis accommodation centres where three meals a day, is a luxury for many.

Australia’s most influential business heads included Aussie (@Aussie) CEO James Symond, who raised a record $110,000 this year, as well as leaders from @Woolworths_AU, @Barangaroo, @HOSTPLUS, @TFEHotels, Deloittes (@Green_Dot), @auspost & @TwitterAU. They all proved that they could swap boardroom politics for aprons and chopping boards to raise money for this unique and rewarding event.

The heads of Government came out too for the @CEOCookOff. His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales and Mrs Hurley joined Chef Rob Cockerill of Bennelong in the kitchen, plating up bruschetta and preparing grilled chicken thighs with chimichurri sauce and barbecued pickles for guests.

The exceptional cooks’ line up included top three chef fundraisers Matt Moran (@chefmattmoran), Neil Perry AM (@chefneilperry), and Guillaume Brahimi (@GuillaumeGroup) in Sydney who raised a combined $141,193 and in Brisbane, Ben O’Donoghue and Dominique Rizzo (@DominiqueRizzo) along with eight other chefs, all teamed up with CEOs, business leaders and politicians to create a pop up restaurant with a combined 42 Chef’s Hats.

The entertainment created a moving backdrop for the evening. On stage at Barangaroo, MC Larry Emdur (@larryemdur) kept guests entertained, with moving performances by the Bangarra Dance Theatre (@BangarraDance), an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation and one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies and the talents of two special Australian solo singer/songwriters, North-East Arnhem Land’s own Yirrmal and Australian favourite Sarah Blasko (@sarahblasko) as well as Australian band Air Land Sea who performed with the Sydney Street Choir. Western GuGuYelanji songman Troy Brady (@TROY_JUNGAJI) performed for the well-fed Brisbane crowd.

This year, the event saw a focus on supporting Indigenous communities with a donation made to Marr’ma Rom Foundation on the night to empower the next generation of young men from North East Arnhem Land. High profile Indigenous chefs, Clayton Donovan (@Clayton_Donovan) and Mark Olive (@theblackolive) created beautiful nourishing dishes using native Australian ingredients.

The OzHarvest CEO CookOff is the food-rescue organisation’s flagship annual event, aimed at increasing awareness of food security, homelessness, and food wastage in Australia. Since its inception in 2012, the annual event has now raised more than $5.5 million dollars for the charity.

OzHarvest founder and CEO Ronni Kahn said funds raised in 2016 will allow her organisation to deliver at least three million additional meals to those in need, expand its nutrition education program NEST and hospitality training program for disadvantaged youth, Nourish.

“Food is all about caring, sharing, dignity and respect. It’s an equaliser and a connector and that’s what this event is about - giving and love” said Ronni Kahn.

“Last night we brought together CEOs and Senior Business Leaders from some of Australia’s leading companies and chefs from Australia’s top restaurants to break bread and share a meal with 1,400 people most vulnerable in our community. The magnificent generosity that is out there fills my heart with joy.”

ICYMI this year, there is still time to donate to with donations accepted until March 31. Every $1 donated allows OzHarvest to deliver two meals to people in-need.

Our guest blogger, Louise Tran (@LouiseTran), is Communications & Marketing Manager at @OzHarvest.