Thank you to everyone who has supported my Crowdfunding project, I am getting one step closer to launching the Community Kitchen here in Mussomeli thanks to you. In this blog I am outlining all of the details of the Crowdfunder for you all and also sharing some more photographs of the house and this extraordinary town that I now call my home. I have purchased a house in the town of Mussomeli in Sicily for 1 Euro. The One Euro House project has been very successful in the town with over 120 houses being sold to foreigners. The project has contributed to a renewed sense of community in the town and economic prosperity. I have strong links with Italy as I have been volunteering here for a community called San Patrignano for over 10 years. My plan has always been to live here and to set up a social project to help vulnerable people and also provide opportunities for young chefs from around the world.
When I bought my house it was important that I chose one that did not require a major renovation. Sadly some of the houses that are for sale for 1 Euro are in complete ruin. My house is an old farmhouse and the foundations are stable. The money will be spent on strengthening the floors and also installing a bathroom and the kitchen. The house has been abandoned for 15 years so it will also need rewiring and new plumbing. I am working with a local Architect by the name of Nicola Sola. He is the project manager for the renovation and I was very happy to learn that Nicola was born one street away from my house in Mussomeli. The renovation will take 2 months and with your help I will then launch the Community Kitchen in May this year. Part of the funds raised will also go to the training program for the young chefs and for the creation of the course materials. I have allowed for some contingency with the renovation in terms of the money that I am raising and any funds that are left over after the renovation is complete will contribute to the costs of running the Community Kitchen. You will be pioneers with me on this journey as I am now being contacted by other owners of 1 euro houses who are asking for help to set up social projects to run out of their houses.
I regularly receive visitors to the house as the locals in the area have heard of my plans to renovate the house and launch the Community Kitchen. This has been overwhelming and I have had many offers of help already. The objective for the kitchen is to rescue food from supermarkets and food outlets in the town and use that food to cook meals for vulnerable people. The key to any successful Community Kitchen is to start with small and achievable goals and then scale up once the project is working well. It is imperative to build trust and a good working relationship with organisations in Mussomeli who already care for vulnerable people and also the food outlets where who I will be working with. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic many people in the town have lost their jobs and there are families who need support. I met with Padre Valderci who is the priest at the Church of San Francesco d’Assisi and our Community Kitchen will start to supply food parcels and cooked meals for families who currently rely on food to be given to them by the Church. Once the project is up and running, I will then approach the other two churches in the town to supply food and meals to their congregation as well.
The kitchen will grow organically and partner with other organisations in the town once it is operating effectively and running smoothly. I have been researching additional organisations in Mussomeli to partner with including:
Fratres Mussomeli - People who volunteer to donate blood
Misericordia - Volunteers who help vulnerable and elderly people
I will build a relationship with these organisations and initially the plan will be to provide meals or food at certain occasions and events arranged by the organisations. From there I will be able to establish more permanent food delivery services if needed.
It was always important for me that any social project that I started had international reach and the chef training program will achieve that goal. Young chefs from around the world will apply to come and cook in the Community Kitchen for a period of 6 weeks. Preference will be given to chefs who are facing challenges in life and who have a genuine desire to give back through food. The chefs will be paid for their time and when they are here they will learn on the job by cooking in the Community Kitchen. They will also take a course that will prepare them to set up their own Community Kitchens in their countries when they return. The course will also provide them with the necessary skills so that they can volunteer or work in Community Kitchens when they return home. Many restaurants have been forced to close because of Covid-19 and the opportunity to come and be trained in the kitchen here in Sicily will mean that young chefs will have additional skills and a wider scope for employment. My dream is that the Community Cook training program will grow and develop and be available to many other people who are out of work as a result of Covid- 19. I have over 17 years experience working and volunteering on community based food projects and I have a great network across the world in hospitality. I will mentor the students once they finish their training here in Sicily.
It is my intention that the project will become self-sufficient and therefore I will not always have to rely on donations or grants to ensure that the project keeps running. Here are some of the plans for revenue streams:
5 Pop Ups / Supper Clubs run by the students - £1000
5 Pop Ups / Supper Clubs run by the volunteer chefs in the 3 week break - £2000
Airbnb – 20 nights at £50 a night - £2000
Airbnb experiences – curated tours of the area, cooking experiences £1000
Photography workshop - £1000 (could be run as part of the experiences)
I have applied to become an Italian resident and once I am I will be setting up the Community Kitchen as and Italian Not For Profit. The house will then become part of the Not For Profit and I will no longer own it. Once the project is up and running I will then look for a bigger commercial size kitchen so that we can expand the program. The current kitchen and house will then become a training kitchen and residence for the young chefs and volunteers.
I have created some great rewards for you if you donate on the Crowdfunding page. Everyone who donates will be included on a special "Gratitude Wall" that will be created in the kitchen, your name will be painted on the wall with a big THANK YOU. There is also a photographic print reward. I have been creating artworks in the house and here are some examples below of the print that you will receive.
I am so grateful to finally be here in Mussomeli and working on this project. I know that it will make a difference to many people's lives in this town and also benefit young chefs from around the world. Thank you for your support.