New kitchen supervisor at John’s Kitchen
Today’s lunch at John’s Kitchen is chicken and rice congee.
It’s a bit fancier than usual - it’s not a mystery meat stew - but there’s a new chef in the kitchen.
Richard McDonald has been hired as kitchen supervisor for the soup kitchen at Crossroads in Blenheim, starting this week.
His 32 hours a week will take the pressure off co-ordinator Janette Walker, who has been racking up 60 to 80-hour weeks.
Her workload has doubled since she took on the role two years ago, as more and more people turn up with complex needs.
Richard’s experience working for a non-governmental organisation in Cambodia makes him a great fit for Crossroads, Janette says. He spent five years in Cambodia, including a year running a training and employment programme to enable young women to leave the sex trade.
He met his wife before returning to Blenheim to appease his mother and sister, working in the kitchen at BV Gourmet, and later at Wairau River Wines’ Cellar Door and Restaurant.
‘‘I’ve been doing this sort of work for quite a long time, since I was young. I’m lucky that I’ve been in a few situations where I can help people and get paid. I always feel pretty fortunate to have that kind of work,’’ Richard says. ‘‘I thought, ‘if I can’t grow food, I’ll put it on a plate for people’. And I discovered a deeper appreciation of hospitality after I worked for a few faith-based organisations. They’re really into looking at food as an expression of care. So whenever I see an opportunity to work for that sort of business, I take it.
‘‘But I’m pragmatic as well. I also have to work somewhere that pays the bills.’’
Richard earns a living wage, which is paid for from various
‘‘It’s ironic to go from a restaurant where you’re trying to minimise wastage, to somewhere where you’re cooking with it.’’
funding streams - from the Marlborough District Council to the Rata Foundation and Lottery Grants, and even the Koha cafe on site where people pay a donation for a coffee. Those funds will also pay for a new social worker, who will start in August, to help connect people with the Ministry of Social Development for assistance.
Janette has to trust those donations will keep coming in, so she can retain the extra support.
‘‘It’s quite competitive for fundraising, but we certainly get our fair share. At the end of the day, we’re providing an essential service,’’ she says.
After lunch, Richard will check out the fridge and freezer to work out what’s for dinner - usually a last-minute decision.
‘‘You get to know what protein you’ve got to work with, and you work out how to feed 100 people with it. It’s ironic to go from a restaurant where you’re trying to minimise wastage, to somewhere where you’re cooking with it.’’
It’s not easy providing good meals with ‘‘wastage’’, but he likes the challenge, he says.
Richard McDonald, John’s Kitchen chef and kitchen supervisor John’s Kitchen’s new chef Richard McDonald finds it strange to go from trying to minimise wastage at restaurants to relying on it at the soup kitchen.