The Russian Embassy, an auction and chefs partner to create goodwill

7 October 2020

South Africa is fortunate to have many valuable partners. It is also very fortunate to have caring, innovative citizens who are always able to come to the party when needed. When the coronavirus struck South Africa, the consequent lockdown left many of its citizens in dire need.

Photo: Ambassador Ilya Rogachev handing over proceeds to Chef Coovashan Pillay. On the right is James Khoza, President of the South African Chefs Association and on the left is Jan Stekhoven, owner of Bryanston Auctioneers

In these unprecedented times people dug deep to innovate and find solutions to the problems that arose. Ambassador Ilya Rogachev of Russia to South Africa together with the embassy staff gathered artefacts and collectibles and partnered with Bryanston Auctioneers to auction off these items.  At the handover Ambassador Rogachev said that given the global pandemic, no country or organisation is able to cope on its own and helping each other was the idea behind the charity auction.

The auction was held online and was open to everybody to bid for these rare items.

The proceeds from this auction was handed over to Chefs with Compassion at an intimate event hosted by Ambassador Rogachev. Accepting the donation, Chef Coovashan Pillay shared shocking statistics with regards to people going hungry and the amount of food that is wasted. South Africa has a world-class hospitality and restaurant sector and at the opposite end there are so many people going hungry every day.

At the beginning of lockdown, in early April, chefs came together to cook and provide meals for people in need. In the first week the chefs fed around 1,200 people and in week eight of lockdown they fed over 65,000 people. Over the last six months of the lockdown they cooked over 1 million meals out of 33 kitchens and distributed to 86 beneficiaries around the country.



Realizing the need, an alliance was formed between Nosh Food Rescue NPC, Slow Food International, the South African Chefs Association, Slow Food Chefs Alliance SA, and Strategic PR and became known as Chefs with Compassion, a new not-for-profit company. This initiative, said Chef Coo, will continue even after the pandemic.

The idea behind Chefs with Compassion is to turn surplus rescued produce that would otherwise have gone to waste into nutritious meals. A shocking statistic is that 150,000 tons of food finds its way into landfills, much of which is still perfectly safe to eat. The volunteers, mostly out of work chefs due to the lockdown, turn this produce into tasty, nourishing meals.

There are many facets to the success of an organisation like Chefs with Compassion, from people rescuing food from markets and stores, to sorting, preparing, cooking, packing, transporting and distributing the final meals. And then there is also the logistics and organisation behind this success.

This initiative which was borne during the pandemic is a champion in meeting so many people’s nutritious needs, not to mention that volunteering is good for the soul.

To donate, volunteer or for more information visit

by A Pemjee