London celebrations

How London chefs are helping Ukraine: #CookForUkraine at Red Cross fundraisers

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he Ukrainian-born, London-based chef and food writer, Olia Hercules, speaks in the torrents that accompany someone who, in her own words, is “running on mad adrenaline”. It was business as usual two Sundays ago as she proudly shared news of husband Joe Woodhouse’s first cookbook with his 111,000 Instagram followers. Friday, she was in front of Parliament to protest against the invasion of her country by Vladimir Putin. In his hometown, Kakhovka, his mother and father are locked up; his aunt Lyuda, cousin Alyona and other family members all live nearby. When Hercules talks to them on the phone, the sound of bullets whistles down the line. His older brother Sasha is in Kiev; he joined the Territorial Army.

“How do I feel? Shit,” she says. “How do you think I feel?” She adds, “My first thought was just a very powerful feeling of being helpless.”

With her this Friday was her friend Alissa Timoshkina, another well-known food writer. The couple have been friends since college. “When we went to the protest, just to be together, I felt we had to join forces,” she says. Timoshkina – “myself from Russia, with my family roots in Ukraine” – says she was “deeply sorry and ashamed, as a Russian. Although I know that Russia is not the same as Putin”.

Determined to help, she recalls “the fun of working with Clerkenwell Boy and the Cook For Syria campaign a few years ago. I thought I’d reach out to see if he was doing something similar again. After seeing all these super brave people stand up, I knew something had to be done.”

King of restaurant influencers, Clerkenwell Boy was more into his usual larks this Friday – “I was in the Lake District celebrating Simon Rogan winning his third Michelin star at L’Enclume when Alissa sent a message,” he says, sounding a little sheepish – but that night he, Timoshkina and Hercules had set the stage for #CookforUkraine. A fundraiser at justgiving.com/cookforukraine went live Sunday night, with little more than a CB story as a promotion. The next morning it was £6,000. At press time it stands at over £32,000. “The response was just…overwhelming. Amazingly overwhelming. My phone is struggling to keep up,” says Timoshkina.

The #CookforUkraine campaign is a massive campaign. It aims to raise both awareness of the crisis and raise funds to help Unicef’s efforts there and welcomes support in almost any form (and also hopes and offers a platform for ” Ukrainian families and their supporters to share recipes with each other, as well as the stories behind these dishes.”) Restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels can add voluntary donations of £1, £2 or £5 to the bill up to in March by emailing [email protected] to get involved. Already, the likes of Casa do Frango, Kricket, Wild Honey, Brutto, Blacklock, Petersham Nurseries, Silo, Soho House, Manteca, Haché, La Rampa, Kol, Fallow, St John, Sessions Arts Club, Da Terra, Cocotte, Homeslice , Ikoyi and Fenn joined the program, as did Where The Pancakes Are, Vermuteria and Nest. At the time of publication, 59 restaurants were on board.

Others help out with special dishes, with all proceeds going to the campaign. Group Big Mamma, which runs Italian Insta-catnip Gloria, Circolo Popolare and Ave Mario, offers garlic bruschetta topped with Ukrainian salo served with a shot of vodka (not Russian). “The attack is one against democracy and the values ​​on which our ancestors and ourselves build a world order based on respect, collaboration and mutual appreciation,” says group director Victor Lugger. “On the day of the invasion, we were not only saddened by the human suffering we witnessed. We also felt fear; it’s on our doorstep and… makes us all the more worried that the Ukrainian suffering concerns us all.

Elsewhere, the city’s Officina 00 recreates a Ukrainian dumpling dish, Vareniki, while all three branches of Japanese Koya will offer what they call a “Ukrainian-inspired udon dish.”

“It really feels like this is not just about Ukraine and this is an important message to the world, for all of our future, to stand up for ourselves and protect our rights,” the leader said. cook Shuko Oda.

Vegan specialists at Club Mexicana are also preparing a dish, and founder Meriel Armitage says she’s sure other places will follow. “Our industry has a great history of coming together to support, love and help those in need, so I have no doubt that #CookforUkraine will be the start of something amazing.”

Hercules hopes that this embrace of Ukrainian culture will go further. “People don’t know anything about my culture,” she says. “There is so much beauty in Ukraine, it’s good that people understand it better.”

The campaign setup, says Clerkenwell Boy, is deliberately non-prescriptive. “Whether it’s helping people discover recipes so they can organize their own fundraising supper clubs, or people going to restaurants who donate or sell pastries, the most immediate thing is just to get people to share their stories.

The campaign aims to both raise awareness of the crisis in Ukraine and raise funds to support Unicef’s efforts in that country.

“Anyone can get involved, from buying a coffee to having a star-studded meal. All money is good because every pound makes a difference. The Just Giving page, he adds, has “enough Ukrainian recipes to organize a three-course or two-course dinner, including vegetarian dishes, so we would really like to see people make it themselves, all while making a donation”.

With a core team of just six people working behind the scenes to facilitate the campaign, Clerkenwell Boy and Timoshkina encourage creativity in all its forms. At the Drunken Butler in Farringdon, Yuma Hashemi is hosting a special evening to raise funds and will send all proceeds to the campaign. Chef Romy Gill is launching a take-out fundraising service – the first on March 10, with one the following week – where people can collect her menu from her home. When she cooks at the Carousel on March 12 for Fitzrovia Restaurant’s International Women’s Day dinner series, every penny raised will also benefit the campaign, as will a percentage of sales from her edition of 6 O’clock Gin. “I try to help in any way I can. If we all come together, it makes a difference,” she says. “We always need more people to help us!”

Solidarity: Alissa Timoshkina with Olia Hercules

/ Tania Naiden

One of those who is, is former Davies & Brook head chef Dimtri Magi, who is hosting a £200-a-head dinner at the Estonian Embassy on March 7. Half Estonian, Magi is also half Russian and, like Timoshkina, struggles to reconcile the Russia he knows with Putin’s vision of it. “I’m ashamed to be Russian right now. There are so many lies, lies, lies, lies upon lies. My heart is bleeding – we can’t watch one person destroy a country.

Such lies caused Olia Hercules to temporarily lower her pans in favor of her phone, although she eventually says she plans to start a cooking school that will fund charitable donations. “There is an information war going on,” she said. “If people can even repost or whatever, if people can just carry on, don’t let it die out. Just keep spreading good information, because your little retweet, your story, can help – it can connect someone, maybe even save someone’s life.

Rather, saving lives is the goal. Unicef ​​emphasizes that all funds raised will be used to support the 7.5 million Ukrainian children currently at risk and will finance the delivery of blankets, warm clothes and hygiene, health and education kits. £32 pays for a large first aid kit, £46 funds an emergency water and hygiene kit and £80 extends to school supplies for up to 20 children. The #CookforUkraine campaign hopes to raise over £1million, Timoshkina says, just like its Syrian counterpart did and, with interest in supporting it from around the world – there have been contacts from America, from Canada, New Zealand and more – it’s not impractical. “I want to highlight the power of food to bring people together,” she says. “People have always met at the table.”

Just keep spreading good information, because your little retweet, your story, can help – it can connect someone, maybe even save someone’s life

Overall, London does just that. Besides the #CookForUkraine campaign, others are fundraising in their own way. ukrainian bar Pinch in Fitzrovia, which serves a “White Ukrainian” cocktail, donates 15% of its total profits to the country’s armed forces.

dark arts the new coffee subtly named “RUSSIAN WARSHIP GO F***YOURSELF” is priced at £10, £20, £50 or £100 a box (buyer’s choice), with 100% of every sale helping those who leak Ukraine. For the first time in four decades, Kensington’s beloved The portico puts Chicken Kyiv on the menu, with £5 off the £15 price going to Ukraine, while Kensal Green’s Parlor also donates profits from its own kyiv, as does the bar and restaurant group Drake and Morgan, which raise funds for the Red Cross. Elsewhere, Rebecca Mascarenhas and two-star chef Phil Howard are hosting dinner parties on March 14 at Elystan Street, Church Road, Kitchen W8, Home SW15 and Flour + Water to raise funds.

Eating out might not be on anyone’s mind right now, but with a little care, every bite you eat can help, one way or another. “Look, it’s a cliché,” Clerkenwell Boy said, “But it’s really true. All the little things help.”

For more information, visit justgiving.com/cookforukraine

Restaurants wishing to support the campaign and get involved should email [email protected]