Chef swaps five-star dining for charity

GIVING BACK: Chef Stefan Freuding helps resident Tommy James make bread buns in the kitchen at Laura Fergusson Trust.

Before moving to Halswell, chef Stefan Freuding was living big, cooking at various five-star kitchens in Europe and the Middle East.

Originally from Germany, Mr Freuding moved to New Zealand for work six years ago, initially in Wellington, before settling in Christchurch three years ago.

But now the days of fine dining are behind him. He has instead opted to work as a head chef at Can Do Catering, a charitable business owned by the Laura Fergusson Trust, which employs people with physical disabilities.

Mr Freuding said leaving behind cooking in hotels and restaurants was easy.

Supervising his new team made up of physically challenged people, was more rewarding, he said.

“It’s probably the best job I’ve had so far in my life. They’re just so friendly, they help each other, people will come to you and try to do whatever they can,” Mr Freuding said.

His team of eight works hard and makes “top-quality” food, he said.

“They are great, but obviously some people forget instructions 5min later, but they try very hard,” Mr Freuding said.

The food they make depends on what clients order and his team could produce almost anything, he said.

Mr Freuding said some people ask why he took up full-time charity work. “I made more money before, but money is not that important,” he said.

“Most of my friends who are chefs, ask why I do it, when you actually tell them what you do they understand it,” he said.

Laura Fergusson Trust chief executive Kathryn Jones said the trust was delighted to have Mr Freuding on-board and planned to expand the catering business to provide permanent employment to the disabled. “Our ultimate goal is to provide great food but also to provide more employment for people with physical disabilities,” she said.

“We have to produce a really good product but our whole mission is around providing more employment for people who ordinarily wouldn’t have employment,” she said.

Can Do Catering currently employ 10 staff all together, eight of whom have physical disabilities, Mrs Jones said. With Mr Freuding joining the team, she believed the business would continue to grow.

“It’s already great, but it’s going to get even better. And then we’re going to be probably one of the largest employers of people with significant physical disabilities in the South Island,” Mrs Jones said.