Attica Soup Project
The Attica Soup Project bubbled out of conversations between Attica owner Ben Shewry and food writer Dani Valent, who arrived in the same place on different paths. Ben is leading his team of 37 through bewildering and immersive challenges to keep Attica afloat. His new workday includes making garlic bread, delivering lasagne and reimagining fine dining dishes for compostable containers, all at two arms’ lengths apart. Dani is watching the hospitality industry that she loves and chronicles chart dark and stormy waters. Her restaurant review column has been cancelled for the unthinkable reason that there are no restaurants to visit. But she is still writing, gathering and sharing information, crafting connections, listening and learning.
As the new normal built itself, Ben and Dani realised that talk of ‘we’re all in this together’ didn’t encompass everybody. Temporary visa holders have been excluded from any meaningful government assistance. These people were welcomed from overseas as contributors and tax-payers. Attica depends on its 20 overseas workers to function and will need these chefs, waiters, managers and sommeliers to rebuild. They are threaded through our hospitality world and indeed our society. But the message from the government is: ‘go home’.
The food writer became an activist. Dani mustered resources, started a petition, and communicated with overseas workers via an email list that swelled quickly to 1200 people, most of them unable to return to their country of origin but expected to survive in a locked-down Australia without work or a safety net.
It’s not right. Looking after everyone who’s in Australia during the COVID-19 crisis is about social justice and basic humanitarian care. It’s also about health, cohesion and economic benefit. If we’re really all in this together, then it really has to be all of us.
A plan was hatched: Ben and Dani will make delicious, nourishing soup to give to overseas hospitality workers doing it tough. Attica is a restaurant that gives back - focusing solely on its own survival doesn’t feel true to the restaurant’s DNA. Though each week is still an incredibly challenging reframing of what Attica is and could be, when you can, you do. Adding a pro bono soup project may not be the wisest act as a business but it is the right move.
This is how it works. Each week (Tuesdays to Saturdays only) Attica’s in-home menu will include a Thai-inspired chicken broth. It’s provided ready to heat, as a ‘lunch the next day’ item, available as an add-on with any dinner pick-up or delivery. The soup is $25, with $5 going towards making a different soup for unemployed hospitality workers on temporary visas. These people are encouraged to register online each Tuesday for a Thursday pick-up. Baker Bleu have generously offered bread for toasting to go with the free soup. Dani and her daughters will make fortune cookies with messages of hope and welcome to be given away with the first 200 soups.
So, it’s soup. It’s also a statement of welcome and inclusion. Our Team Australia includes everyone.