If there's one surefire way to warm yourself up, it's by helping someone else. With that in mind, winter is the perfect time to get involved with the community. And what better way to do that than through hearty, delicious food? Whether you're rescuing it, cooking it, giving it away or sharing it, food has a way of making everyone feel better while strengthening community connections. Here are five ways to give back over the next few months — from channelling your inner MasterChef to eating brunch in Surry Hills to volunteering your green thumb at a local community garden.
HELP PROVIDE MEALS FOR THOSE WHO NEED THEM BY EATING BRUNCH
Giving back to the community doesn't get any easier than this. All you have to do is eat. Surry Hills eatery Gratia donates 100 percent of its profits to charity and, this winter, every cent is going to OzHarvest, which rescues leftover food from restaurants and delivers it to charities across Australia. To make this clear, OzHarvest has taken over Gratia with the organisation's signature yellow and a waste-conscious menu created by executive chef Travis Harvey. Not all items are rescues, but many are — look out for the ramen noodles made from old loaves of Brasserie Bread, the jam made with discarded watermelon rind from Black Star Pastry's signature cake and donated produce from Select Fresh.
Best part is that, for every dollar you spend at the cafe, you could help provide two meals to someone who needs it via OzHarvest's services. That should erase any regret when you hand over $25 for brunch.
CHALLENGE YOUR FRIENDS TO A COOK-OFF FOR CHARITY
With another season of MasterChef almost over (the finale's on Tuesday), it's now time to put all those hours of viewing to good use — and make a sweet donation to charity. Jacob's Creek has set up a temporary MasterChef-inspired kitchen in Surry Hills for those who want to both refine their chef and wine-pairing skills and put their total viewed hours to good use. Here's how it'll work: on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until August 12, award-winning chef Daniel Wilson, who has been a MasterChef guest several times, will guide attendees through a two-course cooking demonstration of one entree and one dessert — naturally, there will be a little friendly competition (but no tears, only prizes).
Of course, you'll get to sit down and eat your creations. To take some pressure off, Studio Neon will take care of your main course and Jacob's Creek Barossa Signature wines will be matched to each course. Tickets are $95, but here's the kicker: 100 percent of profits are being donated to SecondBite, a charity that provides food and support for those in need. The pop-up is aiming to raise enough money to feed over 100,000 Australians — if you ask us, that's a pretty good excuse to don an apron.
TRY GEORGIAN FOOD AND SUPPORT A LOCAL REFUGEE FAMILY
Another spot where you can do your bit by simply feasting is Four Brave Women in Summer Hill. Operated via not-for-profit The Trading Circle, this restaurant is run by a refugee family, which changes every eight weeks. Right now, Yulia and Iana, owners of catering business The Magic Tablecloth, are in the kitchen, cooking up Georgian and Eastern European goodness. They serve lunch and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Meanwhile, through the week, the venue is a cafe, where Adi serves Ethiopian-inspired hot brekkies, lunches, snacks and drinks. Food is served as a buffet, allowing you to chat with the chefs while you fill up a bowl of your choosing. Having a meal here will not only financially support the family, but it will give the individuals the skills and training to start their own business beyond Four Brave Women.
LEND A HAND AT OUR BIG KITCHEN
Like OzHarvest, Our Big Kitchen rescues food that would otherwise be thrown out, then transforms it into meals and delivers them to charities such as Wayside Chapel, Redfern Community Centre and Oasis Youth Support. The kitchen is in Bondi and you're invited to lend a hand with the cooking — an array of jobs need doing, from food prep and packaging to cleaning and distributing. Before signing up, you'll need a working with children check. If you're unable to volunteer, but still want to help, consider giving a donation, be it money, equipment or food. Another option is to hire the kitchen for a catering job of your own: proceeds go straight to the charity.
VOLUNTEER AT A COMMUNITY GARDEN
There are 20 volunteer-run community gardens across the City of Sydney, so, if you're keen to get your hands dirty, you don't have to travel far. Community gardens play an important role in bringing people together, plus they help the environment, by reducing waste through composting and protecting diverse plants and seeds. What's more, they add to the city's total green space, providing people with places to rest, think and breathe easy. On top of that, you can eat the results — or share them with someone else. To get the ball rolling, give your nearest community garden group a buzz. There's a list over here.
Jacob's Creek Kitchen Collective will take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until August 12. Only 16 seats are available for each session, so move quickly and nab your spot here. 100 percent of your ticket will go straight to SecondBite.