Geo-Economics and Politics

These celebrity chefs are doing their bit to help Ukraine

Chef walking down a set of stairs.

Celebrity chefs are cooking for displaced refugees. Image: UNSPLASH/Conor Samuel

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Ukraine

  • Celebrity chefs are cooking to feed some of the nearly 4 million people who have fled the war in Ukraine.
  • They are also selling food to raise money for some of the 6.5 million who have become displaced within their own country.
  • Those getting involved include MasterChef Ukraine winner Olga Martynovska, while supporters include Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi.

Across the world, people have been rallying to the aid of those impacted by the war in Ukraine. Among those helping out are celebrity chefs, who are providing food for people in towns and cities where shops have been destroyed and supply lines cut off by the war.

When US President Joe Biden visited Poland recently, he met José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen (WCK), a US-based charity that has set up a network of kitchens to feed Ukrainian refugees and is sending food supplies into the country.

Tweet from President Biden.
José Andrés founded World Central Kitchen, a network of kitchens to feed Ukrainian refugees. Image: Twitter

The charity provides 290,000 meals daily at more than 1,000 locations in six countries. It also provides food to 21 restaurants and kitchens inside Ukraine, including in the capital Kyiv and the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

WCK’s FEST kitchen in Lviv produces 10,000 sandwiches and 16,000 hot meals daily, despite the team needing to take shelter several times a day from Russian air raids. Andrés says his charity has already provided four million meals inside Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian people need all the help we can give them,” he told CNN from the FEST kitchen. “Every Ukrainian is doing something like these men and women you see behind me, they are volunteers, every day in this location doing 11,000 sandwiches.”

A chart showing number of refugees who have fled Ukraine.
Millions of people have fled Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion. Image: Statista

Food fundraisers

Food is also a powerful way to raise money to bring aid to refugees.

Back in 2013, Olga Martynovska won MasterChef Ukraine. When Russia invaded Ukraine, she fled with her daughter to the Czech Republic, where she’s now using her culinary skills to raise funds for those left behind.

Two women cooking food.
MasterChef Ukraine winner Olga Martynovska serves a meal at a Prague farmers market as part of her Eat Borsch, Save Ukraine fundraising campaign. Image: Reuters/Jiri Skacel

Under the banner “Eat Borsch, Save Ukraine”, she’s selling some of her homeland’s national dishes at a farmers market by Prague’s Vltava River.

"I'm doing my job but it's not because I want to do it in front of the river here in Prague," she told Reuters. "We collect the money in different ways to buy the … necessary medicines for Ukrainians who stay in hot points and really need it."

Cook for Ukraine

Over in the UK, Russian chef Alissa Timoshkina has set up Cook for Ukraine, which by 31 March had raised over $470,000 to support UNICEF’s work in the country. Its supporters include celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi.

“So much trauma and despair, but also so much love and solidarity were born out of this atrocious crime,” Timoshkina wrote in an Instagram post. “This global community is vast – from renowned chefs … to a young schoolgirl called Emmy, who initiated a bake sale in her local cafe and personally raised £87.10 [$114].”

Timoshkina said it might seem odd to focus on food in the middle of a war “but food is an important tool for education, a basic thing that everyone can relate to. What better way to learn about a people than through their food?” she told The Guardian.

London-based Ukrainian chef and food writer Olia Hercules co-founded Cook for Ukraine. She told The Guardian that she fears for her parents trapped in the besieged city of Karkhovka, and for her brother who has volunteered to fight in Kyiv.

Recalling family meals back home she added: “There is something therapeutic about it. You’re nourishing yourself, and there’s a softness to the environment that makes talking feel easy. We don’t have a therapy tradition in Ukraine, but we do have this.”

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum helping to improve humanitarian assistance?

World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab and President Børge Brende said: “Our full solidarity is with Ukraine’s people and all those who are suffering innocently from this totally unacceptable war. We will do whatever is possible to help and actively support humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.”

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