We spoke with Chef DK, the inspirational founder of Haoma Bangkok. This zero-waste neo-Indian restaurant that only cooks with sustainably-grown, locally-sourced produce is unique in the city. Haoma is well known for their lush urban garden in the heart of Bangkok. Guided by their philosophy ‘Grow to Give Back’ everything they do is aimed at regenerating the ecosystem, food and their community. Chef DK has aspirations to play a crucial role in the wider food industry and to be a living example of what restaurants of the future will needs to look like. Over the past year he saw the hardship that Covid was inflicting on local people, Chef DK felt compelled to act.
“This was not a time for champagne and caviar.”
So he launched the #NoOneHungry initiative and turned his fine dining restaurant – that normally caters to a well-heeled clientele – into a community soup kitchen.
ENSURING LOCAL PEOPLE DIDN’T GO HUNGRY
“My hardworking team supported by many volunteers, cooked over 125,000 nutritious meals for the local community that was struggling to feed itself.”
Numerous patrons generously made weekly donations of food and Hoama partnered with Scholars of Justice who collected and then distributed the free meals.
“Wrapped in a banana leaf, a typical meal included fortified rice, turmeric and ginger to help build immunity. We particularly targeted migrant workers engaged in construction and also fresh markets and hospitality.
“We also served over 250,000 free soup meals to migrants who are the backbone of the restaurant industry and were some of the people most hurt by the perpetual lockdowns, not only here in Thailand but in many other countries.”
For his efforts, Chef DK found himself the focus of global attention including being featured in a New York Times story. He subsequently received the prestigious Champions of Change Award, bestowed on him by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants organisation.
DOING WHAT IS RIGHT – IT’S THAT SIMPLE
Haoma is famous for serving eco-friendly cuisine that’s entirely home-grown.
They cook with free-range eggs and unpasteurised goats milk that is cooked over dried animal dung. They also produce all their own food including fish and poultry. Managing their own production helps them control prices and not be driven by inflation.
“Our focus is always to do what is right. And customers appreciate that our food tastes delicious and is ethically sourced. That they can eat without depleting or damaging the environment. The result is that we’ve actually been 8% more profitable.
A CHEF WITH A CONSCIENCE
Chef DK is forthright about what motivated him to launch #NoOneHungry and what he expects from his fellow restaurant owners.
“I did this because I am selfish. These are my people and my planet. That’s why I care so much and keep speaking out about climate change.
“I was saddened that no other Thai chef did the same thing as us. You have to ask, ‘who am I deep inside?’ People spend US$10 on a cocktail without a second thought. Yet that money could put food on several plates – which really puts things in perspective.
“Of course, hunger is the real pandemic. In every way, it is a much bigger problem. Currently, over 9 million people die annually from not having enough food. I want other people to get funding and run their own No One Hungry kitchen. Bangkok has over 1,000 major restaurants. If each chef donated just one day a month, or better every week, imagine what we could do!”
To support Haoma Bangkok’s #NoOneHungry Initiative, you can contribute here: https://www.haoma.dk/index.php/noonehungry/