Published On: 18 March 2024Categories: Stories

A partnership between Loaves and Fishes Tasmania and St Vincent de Paul has resulted in traineeships for two gifted and passionate cooks who have quickly won the praise of the men they feed.

Callum Panne and Eli Eduljee are the faces behind the awesome meals being served up daily at North Hobart’s Bethlehem House, a residential facility for 70 men experiencing homelessness.

Loaves and Fishes, through its food service social enterprise, only took over the paid catering duties six weeks ago, but word has already spread that the new kids in town are serving up delicious, healthy lunches and dinners.

Residents who used to buy unhealthy takeaway are now dining in.

The Loaves and Fishes team, including supervisor, chef Patrick O’Connell, have been inventive with the menu, with themed nights such as pasta Monday, Taco Tuesdays and Asian Friday, through to roasts, casseroles and baked goods. 

Wider benefits for needy

Apart from providing good food to residents and work for two people, the catering partnership has much wider benefits for vulnerable Tasmanians.

Loaves and Fishes is able  to use the facility’s commercial kitchen to produce ready-to-eat meals for St Vincent de Paul to distribute free to those in need.

Loaves and Fishes has also joined with other organisations in a pilot project at Bethlehem House to increase the amount of seasonal produce sourced in Tasmania.

Callum Panne, 23, who is almost finished his Certificate III in Cookery, said the Bethlehem House traineeship had renewed his passion for cooking after burnout and mental health problems took him out of hospitality.

“I was working at a cinema when my dad made contact with Loaves and Fishes which led to me getting a casual job about five months ago at the Rokeby kitchen to handle catering jobs,” Callum said.

“Then I was offered a traineeship as a result of the Bethlehem House contract.

“I’ve always had a passion for cooking. My paternal grandmother was a chef at a Michelin restaurant.

“This is a great environment in which to work.

Food from the heart

“We’re serving up food from the heart.”

Both Callum and Eli said it was a welcome challenge to constantly refresh the menu for a clientele eating nearly all their meals inhouse.

Eli, 18, who finished college last year and is in his first year of a Certificate III in Catering Operations, said he developed a love for food and cooking at a young age.

“I come from a big family where each weekend we had to make food for school lunch boxes,” he said.

“My parents were also involved in church camps where we did all the catering for up to a hundred kids.

“I like that we are helping people here at Bethlehem House.”

Bethlehem House Executive Manager, Stephen Shreeve, said he was pleased with the range and quality of dishes being served, and that residents were delighted with the meals and being asked for their feedback and food preferences.

“It’s vital that we deliver a quality meal for our men,” he said.

“The evening meal is the highlight of their day.

“It’s not just the food, but the important social interaction they get from dining together.”

By Paul O’Rourke

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