A two-year refurbishment project has finally come to fruition, transforming a 100-year-old building on Crown Street, Surry Hills into an all-new hospitality experience – Refettorio OzHarvest Sydney – officially opening its doors on Thursday, 24th of February. This unique community space will draw on the mission of Food for Soul and OzHarvest to reduce food waste and welcome vulnerable food insecure guests to enjoy a delicious gratis lunch, Tuesday- Friday, and cultural community activities and events.
“This is a true social impact project in every sense. I was completely overwhelmed by the response from everyone I asked to help. Starting with the incredible building, which has been generously donated by a philanthropic supporter, to all the fixtures and fittings, the kitchen, the bricks, the floor, the furniture, the lights and artwork, the plates, the coffee machine … the list goes on! And of course, in addition to a small OzHarvest team, it will run with the help of our wonderful volunteers who donate their precious time to help make our guests feel special and welcomed in this space” said Ronni Kahn, Founder, and CEO of OzHarvest.
The Thursday event began with ceremonial smoking giving acknowledgment to the ancestral land past, present, and future; and recognition of the elders who own the land with blessings for healing and positivity into the space forward. A breakfast followed by city officials and supporters to offer gratitude and welcoming of staff and guests for the official first day of lunch services. Going forward the space will provide a daily lunch free for vulnerable guests in the surrounding area and grow to include OzHarvest food education programs, community dinners, and special events.
We want you to experience the emotion of this day through the words of two great women: Ronni Kahn, Founder and CEO of OzHarvest, and Jez Wicks, Head chef of Refettorio OzHarvest.
Founder and CEO of OzHarvest
What is the value behind the collaboration between OzHarvest and Food for Soul? How joining forces can create a bigger change?
Collaboration and joining forces means there is so much more energy and power around making a difference, and there’s absolutely no doubt that this project would have been very different if OzHarvest had done it alone or if Food for Soul had had to find some way of doing this. It’s the joint effort that quadruples the energy.
We always say that Behind every meal, there is something more. What is the transformative power a meal can make every day and how can we all contribute?
Sharing a meal is about dignity, respect, deep listening, love, joy. Food and sharing a meal really embody the hug that sometimes one can’t do physically. By providing exclusive food in a beautiful surroundings we are actually just showing deep care and love for an individual whether it’s in our families at home or whether in this beautiful space that has been created.
How the Refettorio Model could make a difference within communities? Thinking specifically about Australia, how do you think Refettorio OzHravest Sydney will be able to invite individuals and other organizations to take action?
I believe that by creating Refettorio OzHarvest Sydney we are creating a space that has never existed before, a space where anybody can come in, feeling loved, get fed an exquisite meal and leave feeling uplifted and truly give somebody the opportunity to feel they are worth and to feel that life is worth living. And I believe that by sharing this experience here there’s nobody doing that, there’s nobody who offers the demographic that we will be serving, this kind of experience. Even in the past and any time we give food, it’s always with dignity and respect, but to be able to invite people into a space that is purpose-built, that every stone, and every block and every brick has been curated, is artisanal and placed with love in the space…that is a very unique experience which we do hope to duplicate across Australia in every other city. The way empowers others to take action is we cannot do this alone. We invite volunteers, we invite people, chefs to come in and cook, we invite people to serve and we invite people to be part of the experience. So it is a much broader experience than just a little OzHarvest Food for Soul building, it has the ripple effect of going out into the community, cause we ask the community to support us in so many different ways.
Head Chef of Refettorio OzHarvest Sydney
How do you think Refettorio OzHarvest Sydney could be a model to change the way people think about the food system? With what concrete actions will the Refettorio kitchen make the difference, saving food from waste?
I feel very passionately about food waste and understanding the flawed food system. As a chef, I have a deep responsibility for my mind to be open and to imagine and create a world without waste. Zero waste has to be part of the future of food. Refettorio OzHarvest Sydney will showcase this philosophy, by using rescued and donated produce. With commitment, experience and creativity we can turn anything into something special and prevent produce from heading to landfill. To educate and cook for people in this space with rescued produce and the limitless possibilities, I hope to start changing our outlook and relationship towards waste.
What is the role of a Chef in creating a more sustainable food model? How can companies and public institutions contribute to this change?
As a chef in this current climate of extreme food waste and food insecurity that people face every day, it’s our responsibility to educate others through our kitchen practices and being more radical in our convictions. We need to understand and move towards a closed-loop circular system, taking ownership of every product that comes to us.
Farmers work incredibly hard and there’s an opportunity for companies to start rethinking how materials and products are packaged and better ways to incorporate natural packaging when it comes to fresh produce.
If we can shift our thinking as a society that we do not need ‘perfectly’ shaped fruit and vegetables, we would see a huge decline in food waste from farms. So much perfectly edible produce is thrown out because of our shopping behavior and what we deem perfect. Who doesn’t love a crazy-shaped carrot?
What do you expect from this experience? What will differentiate the Refettorio from other soup kitchens?
That it will become a place where people feel a true sense of community, where people will be nourished and nurtured. We can add touches of beauty to everything we do, so I hope being a part of this experience in this space together we can create an empowering, welcoming hub with a positive impact.
Some things that might differentiate the Refettorio is the little things that make it a very special place, like the magnificent artwork, the crockery, the design and layout of the space, and how we can fire up our imagination in our tiny kitchen and transform rescued produce into very special and beautiful meals for our guests.