Laid-off chef volunteers skills to Salvation Army
Laid off by the Fairmont Southampton in March, Jackson Chandranathan took it as an opportunity to help people less fortunate then himself.
Throughout the lockdown period, for five days a week, the chef made his way to the kitchen at the Salvation Army North Street Citadel, where he volunteered his skills.
“I didn’t know how long I would be out of work,” said Mr Chandranathan, a chef at the hotel’s Jasmine Cocktail Bar&Lounge.
“But I wanted to do something during that time. It was easy to get discouraged, but I wanted to stay positive.”
A friend who was already volunteering with the Salvation Army suggested he join him there because the charity needed people who could “cook and help serve”.
By Mr Chandranathan’s estimate, the kitchen served 100 meals or more each day although he believes that number may have dropped a bit since the island’s reopening.
“There are a lot of families who come in to get meals,” he said. He now spends four days a week helping out there.
“There are also a lot of elderly people. It is very satisfying to help. You don’t realise that you are in a wealthy country and still there are so many people in need.
“It reminds me, every time you waste food, there is always someone in need of that food. If you dig down there are a lot of people suffering throughout the world. We have to take care of one another.”
He is uncertain about his future but plans to continue helping as long as possible.
“I am waiting for guidance and information from the hotel management on when we will reopen,” the 33-year-old said.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to work and live in Bermuda, and felt very safe during lockdown due to the great support and work done by the Government. I look forward to seeing the island teeming with tourists again.”
The volunteer work is helping him keep his skills at the ready, although the kitchen at the Salvation Army is nowhere near as well equipped as those at the Fairmont.
“The Salvation Army kitchen needs some simple tools,” he said.
“A good deep fryer would help, larger pots and pans, and also smaller tools like knives, those kinds of things.
“Diann Matthews co-ordinates everything and we help in whatever way she needs. Mostly, I take care of the vegetables and salad. Sometimes I cook shepherd’s pie and things like that.”
The Sri Lankan came to Bermuda in 2015 having worked in Abu Dhabi.
He signed up with the Royal Bermuda Regiment soon after and, for 2½ years, helped make meals for the cadets.
“I joined because it was something different and something challenging,” he said.
“How else do you learn? Being in the military helped me understand the importance of the Bermuda Regiment and teamwork.
“I also learnt discipline and also gained so much knowledge and experience. It helped increase my fitness level, and it changed my attitude towards different aspects of life.”
He left a year ago because his job took up so much of his time, but he helps out with the music at Paget Gospel Church every Sunday.
“I didn’t know anything about sound systems,” he said. “But they were looking for someone to help with it, so I volunteered.”
He was a teenager in Colombo when he started working in a small café. “I am the only one in my family who is a chef,” he said. “My sister is an accountant, my brother works in marketing and my father was a pastor.”
At 22, he moved to Abu Dhabi “for the experience”, working at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr and then the St Regis Hotel as a houseman and then a commis chef.
“Bermuda is quite different from Abu Dhabi,” he said. “It is much calmer and a slower pace. There is a small community kind of feel. I do like it here.”
Despite that, his Covid-19 experience unnerved him.
“There were times when I felt a little anxious, but I was trying to keep a positive attitude throughout everything. Why worry about things that you cannot control? Instead it’s better to be positive and be healthy.”
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