On May 11, Good Food ran a story about temporary visa workers in hospitality: not only were they out of work, they also lacked government support, and were doing it incredibly tough. The story invited Good Food readers to contribute to a campaign to employ a visa worker at food charity FareShare.
The campaign has already raised more $13,000, enough to employ Tugce Bayrakdar Turgut, an out-of-work Turkish chef and student of tourism and hospitality management.
Good Food spoke to Tugce after her Thursday shift at FareShare's Abbotsford kitchen, where chefs use rescued and donated food to cook thousands of meals a day for people in need. "Today we chopped cauliflower and packed meals prepared yesterday," says Tugce. "It was a bit tiring but it's always good. Everyone is helping each other. This environment makes people really happy. Everybody knows they are working for a greater good."
In Turkey, Tugce was a genetic engineer and her husband Alper a lawyer when they decided to change direction, study cookery and work towards opening a restaurant. To broaden their horizons, they moved to Australia. "I heard Australia was multicultural and people are not prejudiced about food," says Tugce. "They like to try different things."
Melbourne exceeded her expectations. "I like it a lot," she says. "I felt like I had the same opportunity as everyone else. In Turkey it is still difficult as a woman. You have to defend yourself every minute of your life."
Before the pandemic, Tugce was a casual larder chef at Omnia in South Yarra but her shifts evaporated during shutdown.
"I was struggling after I lost my job," she says. "I didn't know if I could afford my rent. I was asking for help for the first time in my life. It was hard."
Getting work at FareShare was transformative. "Psychologically and practically, it helps a lot," says Tugce. "To be in need and then to find work that in turn helps people like me – it's a great combination, a great circle."
To contribute to FareShare's Good Food Chef fund visit bit.ly/faresharechef