A little Italian restaurant in Kyiv puts out more than 1,500 meals a day with help from the international NGO.
World Central Kitchen is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. Founded in 2010 by celebrity chef José Andrés, the organization prepared food in Haiti following its devastating earthquake.
A few days ago, I ran into Alex and Maxim looking for an open restaurant on my first day in Kyiv. Restaurants are opening back up but are still few and far between in the aftermath of Russia’s recent retreat. Looking back, it was a little unusual to see perhaps ten or so young folks gathered on the stoop of the Match restaurant, especially with no one seeming to be in line trying to get in. They just all looked like they were having a good time, maybe on break? Anyways, I approached the gathering because the lights were on and they seemed open, and, given my hunger, I was not to be repelled by a group of youngsters if there was a promise of a meal. So, I approached and found English speakers a bit rare--aside from an extremely likable fellow that goes by the name Alex, who immediately asked what I was doing. I replied that I wanted something to eat thinking the place was open. He saw I needed edification and welcomed me in for a bite.
Upon entering one immediately sees this is no ordinary restaurant. There was no host or hostess, no tables or chairs. Just a production line of tables that I’m sure used to seat, and will seat again soon, patrons of what was a little Italian seafood restaurant. For now, it’s been repurposed into a meal production facility that on Monday set a new record of 1,770 meals cooked and delivered to those in need in Kyiv.
A group of perhaps 20 or so friends have been doing this work every day since shortly after Russia attacked on February 24th. The menu on Monday when they broke the record consisted of soup with chicken and vegetables, couscous, grilled chicken, and salad with white cabbage and beans. No junk food is served here. I was fortunate to be there on the occasion interviewing Alex and Match’s owner Maxim and can attest to the cuisine’s deliciousness.
This is a tremendous partnership that I am very pleased to have seen firsthand. World Central Kitchen, working with Match and presumably many other restaurants and food providers in Ukraine, provides funding and other resources to enable Match to make meals at a time when meals are scarce, no one is going out, and yet the landlord still wants to be paid. Their subsidies combined with the donations of various sources, and the efforts of so many cheerful volunteers day in and day out, make it all work.
All these people have lived through a tragedy that most of us can only imagine. Sounds of explosions and gunfire were commonplace until just recently. Lives have been upended, jobs lost, loved ones killed, and uncertainty still reigns though no one imagines anything but a winning conclusion to the war.
It was an inspiration to visit this place and to see the purpose–and yes, joy–these folks have in doing for their countrymen. I don’t think I’ve seen such camaraderie personally before, aside perhaps from the students at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. It seems clear that the young folks in this country see things very much the same way.
Maxim and Alex are hoping we will all plan a visit to their capital city in the not-too-distant future and that a visit to Match will be on the top of all our Kyiv restaurant lists once the war’s need for the place has passed.
I can’t wait.
For more visit World Central Kitchen at http://wck.org.
Alexander Timkov Instagram: @timkovbiatch
Maxim Kolodin Instagram: @mmm.kldn
Match’s Instagram: @match.bistro
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