An Interview with Hunger Relief Chef, Shane Pereira – who creates 5000 meals a month for the hungry
The two C’s - Community and Charity, have played a pivotal role in my life. The first volunteering role I landed was in high school at Nazareth House, feeding and talking with the elderly residents. Admittedly, this was compulsory but I continued to visit the residents years later as I truly enjoyed the experience. Wanting to take on a more challenging volunteering role, I later ran a computer training program for the disadvantaged on behalf of The Brotherhood of St Lawrence and more recenetly, did a community radio gig.
I don’t claim to be a philanthropist or anything. I spend way more than I give! I have found however, that giving your time to help others is far more valuable and rewarding and chatting with Shane Pereira, Chef at St Mary’s House of Welcome reminded me of that. For the past 20 years, Shane has had restaurant goers around the globe salivating over his creations. Since then, he has turned his attention to hunger relief as chef at St Mary’s House of Welcome- a facility dedicated to helping those who are disadvantaged.
So to kick off 2011 with a good spirited post, check out my interview with Shane after the drop.
Chatting with Shane Pereira, Chef at St Mary’s House of Welcome
Prior to joining St Mary’s House of Welcome, you worked in five star hotel kitchens around the globe. How did you get involved with this great cause?
In between full time jobs, I did cheffing with an agency. About 4 years ago I was asked to do a shift at SMHOW. I really liked that experience. They liked me too, and asked for me when help was needed. I then decided to volunteer my time and help out when possible. This happened over a period of 2 years. About 2 years ago I was asked if I would be interested in jumping onboard as their fulltime Chef…..it didn’t take me much coaxing to say yes!! I have honestly grown in my passion for creating good food ever since.
Not knowing what produce will be coming in on a daily basis- how do you deal with an ever changing menu? And has there been any premium ingredients that has come in that you got excited about?
At SMHOW, everyday day is a “Ready’ Steady, Cook” episode. I like being at least 3 days ahead in my prep and that gives me options, and enough of scope to put my Plan B’s into place. Planning ahead gives us more opportunity to add attention to detail while preparing and presenting our meal
Once in a while I become elated when some good quality oils, vinegars or meats are donated. Every day is a new experience; some days come with their own share of miracles and blessings.
I’ve worked with several charities such as Brotherhood of St Lawrence and Nazareth House, but never have I had the chance to combine my passion for food with charity. How has your experience been like over the last two years of running the kitchen at St Mary’s House of Welcome 5000 meals a month for the hungry?
I feel honoured to be cooking meals at St. Mary’s House of Welcome. This great place has given me the platform to freely express myself and that in itself has enabled me to provide the healthy, wholesome and happy meals to the clients daily. We strive most importantly to provide dignity on a plate.
“At SMHOW, everyday day is a
Ready Steady, Cook episode”
It’s fantastic to hear that Woolworths have donated 10 Fresh Food Rescue vans nationally. How has this impacted your role and food charities in Victoria?
The donations of the refrigerated vans by Woolworths will largely enhance the distribution of the rescued food. At SMHOW, the food we receive not only goes to prepare meals but some of the fresh fruit and vegetables are made into parcels and distributed. These parcels, most often, will be the only fresh food consumed by the individual.
We have always been lucky to have community support. In the past we may have received 400 lettuces when we really needed bread and another agency may have received beans when they could have used some of our lettuces. Having the support of Woolworths and Second Bite means the donations can be rescued and redistributed in a more organised and efficient manner.
It’s a relief to know that not only does this initiative help fight hunger but it also reduces the amount of perfectly good food going into landfill. How else can we help promote or get involved?
We can always use willing volunteers. At present we have almost 200 volunteers working at St. Mary’s House of Welcome. Without their efforts we could not cope. Material and financial donations are always welcome. We have great ideas and plans but there are always financial restraints.
Finally, I have to ask- what is you’re favourite dish to cook at home and why? Do you mind giving my readers a quick recipe?
I enjoy cooking outdoors. I love cooking on charcoal. For me and my family, flavours matter!!! Simple meals filled with flavour.
Last week I char grilled some not too expensive pieces of gravy beef and then over the same charcoals and in an earthen pot slow cooked a simple curry using the same grilled beef…….divine…
Shane, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk about your involvement in this amazing initiative.
How can you help? Check out http://www.smhow.org.au/support-us for details – like tapas, share this article with your friends!
St Mary’s House of Welcome
So um, how many meals have you had to make in a day?