The restaurants helping Ukraine, one plate at a time

The Carousel menu will feature classic Ukrainian dishes, such as pickled vegetables with trout, borsch with duck and prunes, vareniki dumplings with potatoes and porcini and Ukrainian honey cake. For Kovryzhenko, many of these dishes were historically appropriated by Russia. “They tried to steal the national identity from all the countries in the Soviet Union, food as well.” So showcasing what he considers traditional Ukrainian fare is, for him, a symbolic part of the resistance.

Another Ukrainian cook has been part of the UK’s most widespread food-related appeal. London-based Olia Hercules, along with Russian food writer Alissa Timoshkina, who also lives in London, and food influencer Clerkenwell Boy (who also set up Cook for Syria, a similar initiative) has founded Cook for Ukraine.

Since launching last Friday its Just Giving page has raised £64,000, and 130 restaurants around the country have signed up to donate £1, £2 or £5 from each bill (or any other scheme of their choosing) to Unicef, which is aiding the 7.5 million children under threat in Ukraine.

“As my heart breaks to see my native country forging a war with its close neighbour, I turn to food for its power to heal, to educate, to unite and to support,” said Tomoshkina. “Like millions of Russians, I too have Ukrainian roots, and grew up on a beautiful diet of Ukrainian and Russian dishes. Let’s cook for Ukraine, for peace, for freedom, for truth, for common sense, for rational thought and for love.”

For Chris Leach, founder and chef of Manteca in London, one of the restaurants signed up to Cook for Ukraine and donating £1 from each bill in March, it was a no-brainer. “We have a responsibility to help in whatever small way we can,” says Leach. “The food industry is good at rallying around these causes, and I think if you’re lucky enough to have people supporting your business, you should be able to offer support elsewhere as well.”

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There are countless examples around the country. At Il Portico in west London, chef James Chiavarini put chicken kyiv on the menu for the first time in more than 40 years, and others have followed suit with the classic dish. Chiavarini is donating £5 from every order to the Red Cross in Ukraine, and says it has sold out quickly every day.

Roughly 15 have been sold each service, with around £100 a day raised. “We want to keep it going for the month of March and may look at new things to help top up next week,” says Chiavarini. “Sadly it doesn’t seem like there is a quick end to this brutality so I think I’ll be coming up with new ways to raise funds for a while.”

Manchester’s Sugo Pasta Kitchen is donating 50p for every pasta dish sold on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in March to Cook for Ukraine. The London restaurant group behind Jolene and Westerns Laundry has launched its own ‘My Ukraine Family’ initiative, with an optional £1 added to each bill, matched by the restaurant, going to displaced Ukrainian families. Twickenham’s Ukrainian-owned Prosperity Restaurant has become a collection point for essential items to be sent to Ukraine, such as first-aid kits, baby food, medicine and more.

Chef José Pizarro has also turned two of his restaurants, based in Bermondsey, London and Esher, Surrey, into collecting points for donations to Ukraine.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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