Renee de Bruyn wants customers of the Loaves and Fishes kitchen to feel “seen and loved”.
“Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it has to be tasteless,” she said.
“We never want recipients of our food to think they are charity cases who will just get whatever.”
Renee and the team’s daily challenge is to produce tasty, nutritious ready-to-eat meals from mostly donated Tassie produce.
The Loaves and Fishes cook said they had to be creative and resourceful with recipes when relying on seasonally-available produce and the harvest from the modest on-site herb and vegetable garden.
“Some weeks you could make anything you wanted, but during the middle of winter you have to get very creative when most of what you are getting is cabbage, onions, carrots, apples and potatoes,” Renee said.
“Our dishes are based on traditional recipes but tweaked to make use of what we’ve got.”
Capacity for 11,000 meals
The Devonport kitchen produced up to 11,000 meals a week in two shifts during the height of the COVID lockdown. Meals are sealed in plastic in servings of four and frozen for delivery to more than 220 partners state-wide.
The mother of nine-month-old son, Obi, said her cooking partner at Loaves and Fishes, Pat O’Connell, worked in an award-winning Indian restaurant and was great at getting the most flavour out of the available produce.
“We do cakes, muffins, crumbles, puddings, frittatas, pastas, curries, Chow Mein, sates, roasts and soups.”
Renee, who did cookery at TAFE, was running her own catering business when she was invited to join Loaves and Fishes to manage the kitchen.
“Not many people get to help set up a brand new top-of-the-line commercial kitchen from scratch,” she said.
“It has been a privilege to help bring to life the two-year vision that Aaron Kropf (Loaves and Fishes general manager) and Andrew Hillier (CEO) had to establish this kitchen.
“The equipment we’ve got in here is amazing. Lots of commercial kitchens don’t have gear as good as us.
Star of the cooking show is a Bratt pan, a monster commercial cooker capable of frying, boiling, pressure-cooking and searing large quantities of food.
“Pat describes it as an electric fry pan on steroids,” Renee said.
The kitchen offers school-based and adult traineeships and relies heavily on community volunteers.
“We want to give opportunities to people who wouldn’t otherwise have them,” she said.
“Our trainees come through employment agencies who recommend applicants they feel will be suitable.”