It started in 1993, when World Chefs Tour founder and patron Bill Gallagher, together with hospitality group Southern Sun and roughly 100 chefs, raised around R500 000 (US$69 000) for hungry children.
The second tour, which took place in 2003, involved 140 chefs and saw R1-million ($139 000) being raised.
And now the 2011 tour – the third edition – hopes to raise over R5-million ($693 000) to sustainably feed children in need over the next five years.
“It costs R10 ($1.40) a day to feed a child, and with R5-million we can feed 300 children every day for five years,” said Gallagher in a statement, adding that the money would be used to develop feeding schemes and supply them with food, rather than just be dished out.
The culinary genius is one of South Africa’s most renowned chefs, and is honorary president of the South African Chefs Association (Saca) as well as honorary president of the World Association of Chefs Societies.
Originally from the UK, he emigrated to South Africa in 1973. Since then he's notched up a string of awards including four gold and two bronze medals as leader of Team SA at the 17th Culinary Olympics held in Germany in 1988, and the Fedhasa Hospitality Industry Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.
Gallagher has been with Southern Sun since his arrival in South Africa and also serves as the group’s director of communications and public relations.
Supported by diversified food services and distribution company Bidvest, accommodation sponsor Southern Sun, and others, the Bidvest World’s Chef’s Tour was launched in Johannesburg in May 2011.
The event sees over 250 chefs, in teams from 44 countries, travelling around South Africa until 30 August, giving food demonstrations, hosting gala dinners and interacting with the country’s children.
Participating countries include Australia; China; Wales; Democratic Republic of Congo; India; Nigeria; Kenya; Norway; South Tyrol; Tanzania; the US; and many more. The chefs have travelled at their own expense.
Some 700 local chefs are also participating.
Times are tough for many and it is often a struggle to feed the family. Charities and individuals face daily challenges, and at the launch of the tour it was revealed that two and a half million children go to bed hungry every day in South Africa.
Bidvest’s CE Brian Joffee said: “Bidvest sees this as a heart-rending catastrophe that demands response.” And what a response it is - the 2011 World Chef’s Tour is regarded as the biggest single fundraising event in the culinary world.
Proceeds will be donated to a number of causes, such as the Akani Diepsloot Foundation, the African Children’s Feeding Scheme (ACFS) and the Meals on Wheels community services, which feeds 10-million South Africans every year.
ACFS provides 21 000 children with milk or cheese and a peanut butter sandwich daily, while the Akani Diepsloot Foundation is an aftercare, preschool and crèche for 750 children during the week and 500 children on weekends, all from the impoverished settlement of Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg.
Youngsters get a daily meal and take part in developmental activities including English literacy, reading, educational crafts, and games and sports. They are also given the opportunity to join clubs, such as drama or choir.
The public can get involved by buying tickets for tour-related events, a chef's hat costing R10 at the demonstrations, or seats or tables for the dinners.
For those unable to attend any of the events, the tour’s official song “Sing Children Sing”, recorded for the 1993 tour and re-done in 2011 by local songbird PJ Powers, is available for just R10 by sending an SMS with the word “child” to 31755.
Not just chefs
It is, however, not only chefs and sponsors that are involved in this project.
Well-known South African culinary artist Frans Groenewald has painted South African Culinary Delights exclusively for the tour, and has made a limited number available for purchase as another way for people to help.
Only 500 of these pieces of art, which colourfully illustrate the life of a chef, are available. Groenewald said that although he did not know of the tour when he was approached by Gallagher and former Saca president Martin Kobald, he considers it a pleasure and an honour to be involved with such a prestigious event.
As most of his work is food related, Groenewald said it was easy to do a special commission for the project.
The artist, who does charity pieces for the Stellenbosch SPCA and occasionally for Aids awareness and national cancer association Cansa, said: “My images are fun and uplifting, ideally suited for serious causes as they break the ice. My art also encapsulates the fun side of food.”
Signed and numbered prints are selling for R499 ($69) unframed, and R999 ($138) framed. The original item will be auctioned at the official gala, taking place on 30 August at the Sandton Convention Centre. There will be auctions for canvas replicas at various events, and prints may also be purchased via the tour website.