After last weekend, I’m happy to report that volunteerism is alive and well on the Gold Coast!
It’s not a new idea, helping others in our community. It’s pretty usual for neighbours to pitch in to finish a project or take around a casserole if someone is sick (at least it is in my community).
Sunday’s event was called ‘Feast4Kristy’, a lunch hosted by ChefsProBono to help Kristy Cruise (MS sufferer and campaigner) pay for the cost of her HSCT treatment in Moscow.
In recent months, Kristy Cruise has become the most visible face of MS in Australia. A highly educated emergency nurse, Kristy’s path to Moscow for treatment and her progress on return has been followed by 60 Minutes, newspapers and magazines throughout Australia. Kristy’s gamble paid off, with the progress of her disease halted. But she was left with crippling debt.
Unselfishly, since her return, Kristy has tirelessly advocated for HSCT’s availability as a treatment in Australia, personally supporting the hundred or so MS sufferers who, since her own treatment, have chosen to make the journey to Russia. (Read a fuller article about Kristy’s journey here.) NBN News turned up to the lunch and interviewed Kristy to relay the message.
Certainly it’s not the first time that chefs have banded together for charity (think Matt Golinski). But for ChefsProBono, a Brisbane-based group of chefs and cooks who met on Twitter and got together to raise money for charity, this is not just a ‘one off’. It’s the fourth event they’ve held, the others raising funds for Young Care and MS.
Held in the MS Respite House in Runaway Bar (which ironically is for sale), the whole venue became a giant pop up kitchen with top draw chefs showing their stuff.
As boats motored past us on the Broadwater, and kids splashed away in the pool, our chefs and volunteers improvised with portable and makeshift equipment in the afternoon heat.
The lunch was a seafood extravaganza of amazing food: a sack of oysters eaten as fast as they were freshly shucked by Neil VJ (you could crown them with Nam Jim if you wish), sashimi of salmon and kingfish filleted before our eyes, prawn cocktails, scallop ceviche prepared in a masterclass by The Stokehouse’s Richard Ousby, smoked Tassie mussels, and the delicious Coulibiac, a classical Russian fish pie (in this instance made by Chef Chris Gilson using Atlantic salmon).
But let’s not forget the rest of the food: Troy Bedford’s delicious pizzas which kept popping out of the portable woodfired pizza oven, satay sticks and chicken wings (by Masterchef 2014’s Emily Loo), and Ben Wrigly’s smoked pork belly finished over a hot coal BBQ, or the salads prepared by the Thermomix ladies.
For dessert, seasonal fruit and gelato were available, as well as a poundcake with BBQ fruit, demonstrated in a masterclass by Josh Lopez from GOMA.
I spoke to organiser Paul Chambers about his involvement in the event: “Kristy has given so much to others that it’s important to help her out so that she can continue her work. It’s easy to get sponsors for this event and the chefs are all really happy to do it. What’s difficult is getting bums on seats.”
For me, the event was an eye-opener, not just for the goodwill of those suppliers, chefs and cooks who so willingly gave their time, but also because of the attendees. Over 100 tickets were sold for the event, but some were too sick to be there.
Personally, I had not seen so many young women in one place afflicted by the same disease. In some its effects were devastatingly obvious; in others it had not yet taken an externally visible toll.
This was not a charity event captured in glamour photographs to be splashed across the newspaper’s social pages. Instead, above crutches and wheelchairs, smiles glistened on the faces of those whose extended families turned out in support.
With some attendees having flown from as far away as Adelaide, the sense of community and support of the one person who had become their advocate was clearly apparent. I listened as they spoke of how fearful they were of their journeys to come, and their pride in the one person who spoke out for them.
But where was the rest of the larger community? They certainly missed out on a feast!
“It’s funny cooking here with my boss on my day off,” quipped Emily Loo as she and her husband worked alongside GOMA’s Executive Chef Josh Lopez. Her comment pulled me up. For many of the participating chefs, they’d swapped the hot kitchen for the hot sun, working from early morning on their one day of rest.
With live entertainment, a silent auction and raffle, there was plenty going on. As we sat, ate and talked I figured that we’d got the easy role: to pay $60 for an incredibly abundant lunch prepared by expert volunteers, hopefully to make a difference.
Read more about Chefs Pro Bono on Facebook.
A full list of sponsors for the event can be found here.
You’ll find our previous article about Kirsty Cruise here.
Thanks to ChefsProBono for the photos of Kristy and the lunch menu.