Winnipeg chef gathers ingredients from closed restaurants to create meals for people in need

Chef Ben Kramer is trying to make some good out of a tough situation in Winnipeg

Although Winnipeg restaurants have yet to receive a provincial mandate to close, many of the city’s establishments have adopted self-closing policies to help curb the spread of COVID-19. While the fallout of sudden restaurant closures can be seen on numerous levels, an often-overlooked detriment is the overwhelming amount of perishable food that can go to waste.

In many cases, restaurants have elected to donate what they can to local food banks or sell to staff at reduced pricing, but the accompanying stress and uncertainty of closing indefinitely can make the task difficult to manage.

To make things easier on both the restaurants and those in need, acclaimed chef Ben Kramer has been collecting perishable supplies and delivering them to the Main Street Project food bank.

Using space provided by Winnipeg’s Kitchen Sync, Kramer is taking all of the food he collects from local restaurants that can’t be immediately redistributed by Main Street Project and cooking it into soups, stews, and salads that they can serve right away or freeze and reserve. 

“We’re just going for volume, not individual meals,” Kramer explains. “Some food will be for grocery--pick up, staples, etc. Some food will be ready to eat for lunch and supper. Some food will be batch cooked for freezing.”

As of March 17, Kramer had collected donations from roughly 20 Winnipeg restaurants. Kramer says that while the downsides to the widespread closures have been overwhelming, what’s been the most overwhelming has been the generosity shown by the people of Winnipeg.