Over 2,000 litres sold and Chef Victor Bongo’s African peanut soup fundraiser is nourishing the body and soul.
Besides being an award-winning recipe passed down by his grandmother, and being featured on many TV cooking shows, Bongo serves up the popular soup as a fundraiser to help the homeless. While it started helping the less fortunate on Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, Bongo is extending it to help those in Penticton now that he calls the South Okanagan home.
“The group I am fundraising for is called Compass Court and is operated by the Penticton and District Society for Community Living. I met a guy that works there and was very inspired by what he does to give back,” said Bongo, one of Canada’s top chefs who runs two restaurants in Naramata.
It was nine years ago that Bongo first started fundraising for homeless in Vancouver. Every day on his way home from work he would stop at a convenience story for candy and a homeless man would always open the door for hime, but would never ask him for anything. Bongo said after awhile he started bringing the homeless man food from his restaurant and give him a few dollars. The man would wait for Bongo six nights a week.
Bongo said he went on vacation for a week and when he returned he found the homeless man very concerned about his safety and thought something bad had happened to him.
“I said I was sorry and offered him a week’s worth of money that I had missed giving him, he said ‘no I don’t want our money, I was just worried about you because you are the only friend I have,’” said Bongo. “It made me so sad and I took the time to hear his story and how he ended up in the street. Turns out he was a normal guy like me, working hard, but then he got sick and couldn’t pay his bills and his family abandoned him and he lost everything. After that day, I realized that every person living in the street has a backstory to how they arrived there and we can’t judge homeless people.”
Bongo was inspired to do more and started the African peanut soup fundraiser.
“I decided I wanted to help and back as much as I could. I always encourage everyone to open their heart and not judge those in need. I remember the words of my grandmother before she died; help those in need just like you were helped,” he said.
Her words continue to impact Bongo and her African peanut soup recipe the world around him. Bongo estimates he has made about 50,000 litres of his famous soup at his restaurants which is another reason he chose that specific recipe for the fundraiser.
The soup is made daily so it is fresh when it is picked up. All of the team at Bongo’s restaurant helps him with the preparation as all the vegetables are hand cut. Bongo added that the soup freezes nicely, so you can portion it and have it over the winter. It can be picked up fresh or frozen at Bongo’s barbecue restaurant at Village Grounds Coffee Shop in Naramata (340 Robinson St.). It is $50 (cash only) for one four-litre bucket of the soup.
In addition to purchasing the soup, Bongo is offering a limited number of private five course dinners and wine pairings, served in your home. Proceeds will also go back to shelters and the homeless. To order soup, or to inquire about the private dinners, email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voicemail or text to 778-806-4880 ext. 4.
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