Food for Thought

Image source: Contributed

Local businesses have teamed up with a Sunshine Coast charity in a bid to help our most vulnerable, Ingrid Nelson discovers more.

Food starts a conversation. That’s the message behind The Hatted Chef, a delicious new range of heat-and-eat meals that is supporting the Sunshine Coast’s most vulnerable.

Curated by hatted chef Chris Sell of The Dock Mooloolaba and available through all White’s IGA stores, every fifth meal sold will go to Sunny Street, a charity organisation created to help the homeless and at-risk community.

The idea was brewing in The Dock kitchens for some time, however the onset of COVID was the catalyst for the team to bring the idea to life.

“When the restaurant was closed for dining in because of COVID-19, we wanted to create options for our customers beyond just takeaway and also provide work for our staff,” says Chris.

Using the same ethos as at the restaurant, The Hatted Chef uses the highest quality ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible, with the meals lovingly prepared by chefs under the watchful eye of Chris, who was awarded a coveted Good Food Guide Chef Hat in 2016.

“We wanted to offer great food with the highest quality ingredients, sourced as locally as possible, but we also wanted to give back to the community beyond just creating jobs, and supporting producers – and that’s when we decided to use the products to support homelessness in our local area,” says Chris.

“That led us to the incredible work being done by Dr Nova Evans and nurse Sonia Goodwin at Sunny Street, which provides medical care and support for homeless people on the Sunshine Coast.

“For every four packs sold, one meal or the equivalent value will be provided to Sunny Street, which is 20% of everything sold.”

Both previously in managerial positions with Queensland Health, Nova and Sonia were charged with getting patients home after their stay in hospital. However, the dynamic duo saw a real need to fill a gap for those who had no home to go to.

“Everyone wants to be home, it’s where they feel their best, but unfortunately we saw a lot of people who were re-presenting through the emergency department with drug use issues and mental health issues who had nowhere to sleep,” says Nova.

“We realised there was a gap in the service. We knew we, and our colleagues, were doing a great job when they came through the hospital doors but what about those who didn’t make it through those doors? It got us thinking about how we could help,” adds Sonia.

Parents to eight children and three grandchildren between them, the brave duo, who were both the sole income earners for their families at the time, decided to resign from their secure, permanent jobs and follow their passion to help our most vulnerable.

“To be honest we got tired of asking permission. We hit an innovation ceiling in our workplace. We did as much as we could in the system and so we realised we had to work outside it,” says Nova.

“Essentially, we have created a health care system for vulnerable Australians ourselves to help people in that gap who are not accessing appropriate healthcare. It was a massive jump, we call it our Geronimo moment!”

The duo began running two clinics per week for the first six months, and now run nine per week across South East Queensland including Gympie, Tewantin, Nambour and Maroochydore.

“The majority are men aged between 35-55, as they seem to be the last on the list to get housing, it’s really quite sad. We had one gent say to us ‘I’ve been on the streets too long’. There is a sorrow that embeds them, you can feel it when you meet them,” says Sonia.

“The second biggest group are females aged 8 to 25 and the fasting growing is women over 55 who have perhaps spent their life looking after family and have little superannuation.”

Citing embarrassment, self-shame and self-stigma as some of the main reasons those who are homeless are reluctant to present to a hospital, Nova says often is the simplest of conditions they need help with.

“Simple things when you are sleeping rough become really serious, getting covered in mozzie bites for example,” she said. “One gent we treated was covered in abscesses.

“A lot of people have had traumatic lives, so to walk through the doors and ask for help is incredibly confronting for them. Even a lack of health literacy and anxiety plays a massive part.”

Both Nova and Sonia are delighted to be partnering with The Hatted Chef, which will mean nutritionally-intentional food rather than opportunistic eating that happens when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.

The biggest thing is that food starts a conversation,” says Nova.

“Healthcare has to be in collaboration with other stakeholders like the Hatted Chef who are community-centered. We are all in this together to look after our community. If we don’t we are all on our own.”

Well known for her community spirit and helping others to reach their dreams, award-winning business woman Roz White says she was delighted to be able to support the Hatted Chef through selling the meals through White’s IGA Stores.

“It’s a great range that is of a very high-quality, it’s convenient and the servings are generous, with each pack serving two people, and its local which we love,” she said. “Plus, it’s helping those in our community who need it most.”

Restaurant-quality meals that are ready in minutes and made from locally-sourced ingredients with a generous side serving of helping your community – Order up!

Food for Thought

The Hatted Chef range includes four different dishes and each pack includes two generous serves:

∙ Wild Mushroom Risotto (vegetarian): RRP $12.99

∙ Smoked Peppered Beef Brisket: RRP $19.99

∙ Smoked Wagyu Beef Brisket: RRP $19.99

∙ Smoked Pulled Pork: RRP $19.99

For stockists or to become a distributor visit

About the Author /

[email protected]

A journalist for more than 20 years, Ingrid has worked across all mediums, eventually finding her niche as a feature writer. Cutting her teeth as young television reporter, she quickly moved through the ranks before joining a high-profile Brisbane magazine. She moved to the Sunshine Coast with her husband and three children in 2007 and has spent the last eight years working in publishing. She is thrilled to join the clever and creative team at IN Noosa Magazine.

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