Chef Adi Hadean’s humanitarian programme Solidar Social, which works to provide meals for those in need in Bucharest, Romania, won the Social Responsibility Campaign of the Year 2020 at Horeca Awards.
The award was recognition of the work that Hadean, a well-known chef and television personality in his native Romania, has been carrying out since April, and has served some 150,000 meals to the hungry in the capital.
“I was very pleased to receive this award on behalf of my team,” says Hadean. “We are working to develop the programme further and provide meal delivery and to establish social canteens all over the country now.
“We are trying to collaborate with local authorities and now we are reaching out to different NGOs that have connected activities. For example, food banks gather a lot of food from the big retailers and we work with them to make sure it all gets used efficiently. We have to work with what we have. We are trying to spread our activities throughout the country so we can distribute evenly and properly whatever food we can source.”
Hadean’s warm meals provide succour to those in need during a very difficult time for the country. The coronavirus has Romania firmly in its grip, and both people and businesses are suffering. Much like in other countries, it is the hospitality industry that is suffering disproportionately.
“The situation is not so good in Romania,” says Hadean. “My guess is that most of the restaurants that are now closed are not going to open again. I don’t know how it works in other countries, but in Romania this is a business that works mostly on borrowed money. Especially for younger restaurateurs, they invest whatever they have, they borrow and then they just hope to get to a break-even point, but it doesn’t happen a lot."
Hadean is not optimistic about the future of the hospitality industry in Romania, even with the arrival of a vaccine next year.
“I don’t think the government can do anything. There are some programmes to help the industry, but we need to understand, there is nothing for small restaurants. The programmes are designed to help the big companies in trouble. Small independent restaurants, with a small turnover, basically don’t have any chance to access any government programme."
If the pandemic has exposed the flaws in the business model of hospitality, it has equally done so in the wider capitalist system. Romania is a country with a living memory of communism.
“If you work in a capitalist country, like Romania is now, it is impossible for the government to regulate in such a way that for example regulates rent. You can’t force a landlord to give up rent for months, it’s impossible. The way that this entire global business system is created, it cannot function in this situation, it just wasn’t prepared for it.
“I’m not sure we have economists in the world enlightened enough to create what is needed. Basic needs are basic needs, you have to fulfil those first, and when people are hungry they make bad decisions, so it’s not for me to judge if the system is better or worse. It is what it is, we need to pick it up and move forward.”
Hadean is not going to wait around for authorities to save the day, he prefers taking action, at a local level, to provide for those basic needs.
“We need to be resilient and understand what we can do better. It’s like a game where we keep going until every last piece is down and from there we can reconstruct. We need a new approach for business and for business ethics.
“Maybe it sounds unrealistic, but until the last piece is down we can’t rebuild. Many businesses will die in this crisis, lots of people will die, but if you still have your life you can start again.”
Adi Hadean is focusing on the here and now. If Romanians are going to get through this crisis, it depends on their actions as individuals. The healthcare system in Romania is creaking under the pressure, and a further surge in Covid could have disastrous consequences. Hadean urges everyone to take personal responsibility.
“It’s important that everyone stays safe and well. It’s difficult to educate people on how to take care of the others. We can do it with our children, but with the adults, it’s more difficult. We have to repeat the message that you have to take care of yourself. The healthcare system is overwhelmed and people die alone of Covid, so you must look to take care of yourself.”