Nothing can dull the horror of the ongoing Syrian crisis, but the speed and force with which Australia's hospitality industry has jumped behind #CookForSyria certainly sprinkles a little light in the darkness.
Cook for Syria is an initiative of Instagrammer ClerkenwellBoy, which began in London last November, and saw the hospitality industry raise more than £125,000 for UNICEF UK's Syrian Crisis Relief fund.
The likes of Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Fergus Henderson all rallied behind the effort. Now the campaign has come to Australia, with Sydney and Melbourne's chefs, restaurants, bakeries and cafes set to raise funds for UNICEF Australia's Syria Crisis Appeal for Children over a month-long campaign, kicking off with charity galas in each city.
The Melbourne event will take place on Monday, March 6 at the Point in Albert Park, with an incredible line-up of chefs cooking dinner: Thi Le (Anchovy), David Thompson (Long Chim), David Moyle (Franklin and soon-to-open Longsong), Karen Martini, Shane Delia (Maha), Shaun Quade (Lume), Frank Camorra (MoVida), Victor Liong (Lee Ho Fook), Jacques Reymond, Dave Verheul (Embla) and the Point's own Andy Harmer.
Each chef will create a Syrian-inspired dish, which will be served as a share-style banquet followed by an auction. Tickets are $329, including a booking fee, with all profits going to UNICEF Australia. Tickets are on sale now at goldentix.com/e/cookforsyria
Winemakers, farmers and front-of-house staff have come forward to volunteer their goods or labour. Several more of the city's best chefs volunteered, and those who weren't able to participate have donated towards the auction. Attica's Ben Shewry (who will be stuck renovating) has donated dinner at his Ripponlea restaurant. There are also dinners from the team at Scarf, another great cause, and Stephanie Alexander is supplying a bumper crop of her cookbooks.
David Thompson, who recently opened Long Chim in Melbourne, will cook for the Sydney gala dinner on February 27, too. He'll be joined by Peter Gilmore (Quay), Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong), Clayton Wells (Automata), Mitch Orr (ACME) and the team from Three Blue Ducks to give their signature dishes a Syrian twist at Three Blue Ducks Rosebery.
As well as the gala dinners, there will be a month-long fundraising campaign with restaurants, cafes and bakeries adding a Syrian touch to their dishes and donating $3 from each to the cause. Across Sydney and Melbourne the likes of Burch and Purchese, Long Chim, Embla, Three Blue Ducks, Burch and Purchese and Momofuku are locked in, with a full list to be announced.
Follow the campaign on Instagram via the hashtag #CookForSyria