What inspired you to start Our Father’s Kitchen and what keeps you motivated?
“I live in a country where we are surrounded by poverty. In Ethiopia, I experience extreme wealth and extreme poverty living side-by-side. It’s very difficult to miss the struggle, the challenges and tragedies that consume many people’s lives in Ethiopia.
I run successful restaurants in Ethiopia – I feed many people who have wealth and access to a lot. It felt like an easy extension – only this time, I am feeding children who have access to nothing!”
What challenges are you trying to address with Our Father’s Kitchen?
“Our goal at Our Father’s Kitchen is simple – feeding children who would otherwise not have access to a single meal in a day.”
How has being a noted chef with successful restaurants helped you, made you, particularly sensitive to and well suited to address poverty, hunger and malnutrition?
“Just being around food all the time continuously striving to up my game in the kitchen by demanding better ingredients, higher and higher quality and complexity of producing an extraordinary meal. Delicately designing each plate to not only taste good but to also look good. All this would be happening while next door, a little girl is huddled on a straw mattress on the floor with her mother sleeping the night on an empty stomach. It almost doesn’t make sense for a chef not to be heavily involved with hunger. It’s a most meaningful match.”
How many children are you trying to feed and how much does it cost?
“Currently, we feed 177 children one healthy and hearty meal a day. This costs under 40 cents (US) per meal per child. We would love to feed even more children – and we will eventually raise more money and make a bigger difference.
Some day, I pray that no child ever goes to bed hungry – in Ethiopia and beyond.”
Why is providing a decent meal so important to children, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS?
“Over 30% of the children in Our Father’s Kitchen are living with HIV/AIDS. Free medicine is available for these children and people living with HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, many people who do not have access to a meal get sicker when they take the medicine without food.”
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“Happy and healthy children going to school and playing with laughter and joy – and worrying about finding their next meal is the last thing on their minds.”
What is your advice to other chefs and concerned individuals who would like to make similar difference in their communities?
“Do it now, do it quickly. If you can do it yourself, start any project in your community. If you cannot start your own – support one. They key is to do it quickly. For every day you wait, a child is further away from enjoying a meal.
Cat beat you at foosball while she was in Ethiopia. We know how competitive chefs can be. Any plans for a rematch?
“I let Cat win because she was a guest in my country! Also, it wasn’t fair match because I gathered she had been practicing. Make sure you tell Cat that our next match I won’t go so easy. GAME ON!”