With Rasmus Munk’s Alchemist closed due to the coronavirus crisis, the Danish chef has turned his attention to feeding the city’s most vulnerable, the homeless, with his JunkFood organisation.
Used to challenging his guests with a thought-provoking 50-course tasting menu, for $600 a head, Munk is now working round the clock to ensure the homeless people of Copenhagen get a good, nutritious meal during the coronavirus crisis.
With many of the city’s homeless shelters now closed due to infection risk, vulnerable people in Copenhagen are in further jeopardy. Many already have nutritional deficits, so the need to feed them becomes more important now.
JunkFood was started by Alchemist’s co-owner, investor Lars Seier Christensen, who made a bet with himself that if he didn’t lose 10 kg by March 1st 2018, he would make a DKK 250,000 donation to the worst cause he could think of. In the end, he won the wager with himself, but on a visit to the Vesterbro area of the city with Gadejuristen (Danish Street Lawyers), he saw the needs of the homeless community and decided to start the JunkFood organization to feed them.
Chef Munk took the lead in the project which, during 2019, was kept on a low flame due to the renovation and reopening of Alchemist, which he owns together with Lars Seier Christensen. Alchemist's owners have retained all their staff, despite the restaurant's closure in a rare show of loyalty.
“During 2019, we focused on slightly smaller projects, such as cooking and bringing food to the organisation Mændenes Hjem and their shelters in Copenhagen. Due to the corona crisis and the restaurant's temporary closure, I found that a great need among the homeless coincided with me having four empty kitchens and time on my hands”, says Rasmus Munk.
The project began on March 18 and is coordinated with Mia Nyegaard, who is the social mayor of Copenhagen. Mia has provided contact with the city's shelters and hostels. Munk made an appeal on social media asking for volunteers and donations, and the response from chefs and producers has been great, he says.
“The response has been amazing and we already have a schedule for the next 20 days with volunteers. What we need now is financial support and more contributions of ingredients. We still have some of Lars Seier’s start-up capital left, and we are working on a form of fundraising system”, says Rasmus Munk.
The meals are prepared in individual portions. As a maximum of 5–6 chefs can work at once due to Denmark’s coronavirus regulations, the limit for production is around 450 portions. That's why Munk is encouraging others with empty kitchens to contribute as well.
“The corona crisis has made the need for projects like JunkFood more relevant than ever. But I would like to bring together a wide network so that we can continue the project on the other side of the corona crisis. Therefore, we welcome requests from all volunteers who want to contribute to the project. In addition to chefs, it can be anything from project managers to graphic designers who want to join the team”, says Munk.