How Ukrainian Chefs Are Helping The War Effort

In late 2021, not long before the onset of Russia's war on Ukraine, chef Volodymyr Yaroslavskyy opened what Eater calls a "high-concept, open-kitchen restaurant" in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. The publication explains that the restaurant, called Chef's Table, reflected a new wave of fine dining in a country whose citizens have traditionally favored home cooking over dining out. After the reign of the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych came to an end in 2014, "a new generation of local chefs was reinventing Ukrainian cuisine, reinvigorated in part by the fall of the corrupt political regime and the common struggle away from Russia and toward the West."

Now, as millions of Ukrainians continue to escape Russian attacks by seeking refuge in neighboring EU countries, Yaroslavskyy — and many of his fellow food industry workers — are volunteering as part of a citizens' army to bring free meals and other emergency services to those in need. 

Chefs are preparing hundreds of free meals a day

Yaroslavskyy — who has converted his other Kyiv eatery, Lucky Restaurant Vinoteque, into a hub for volunteers — told Eater that "the only thing that matters now is to stay alive and safeguard our land." The chef and his team of line cooks and volunteers spend each day preparing hot meals for 150 to 200 people in need. They are hardly alone in their efforts. Another Kyiv-based restaurateur, Zhenya Mykhailenko, shared with Eater that he's been working with the Ukrainian army to prepare meals that align with the U.S. army's special operation forces nutrition guide, featuring beloved items like borsch. Nearby, a small team at the Kyiv Food Market is serving 10,000 dishes a day to Ukraine's military, hospitals, police, and security forces with the help of their relatively small team. "The number of people volunteering in Kyiv now is astonishing," co-founder Alex Cooper tells Eater. "It's not only us, everyone is trying to make a difference."

Chefs from other countries are also helping to feed Ukrainians. According to Newsweek, volunteers for the World Central Kitchen have now fed more than 1 million hot meals to civilians in a dozen different cities in Ukraine, as well as refugees in neighboring countries.