New kitchen su­per­vi­sor at John’s Kitchen

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER EDER

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.

PHOTO: SCOTT HAM­MOND/STUFF

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.

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