Cooking is turning lives around for Australian expat Danny McCubbin, who will bring a taste of Jamie Oliver to Denmark with a Pop-Up Supper Club at Castelli Estate Winery next month.
Mr McCubbin, social media and community ambassador for the Jamie Oliver Foundation, has been running supper clubs for more than five years to raise money for the Fifteen London Apprentice Program, which gives disadvantaged youth a career start.
"It costs about $56,000 for each apprentice - they are paid and they receive on-the-job training at Fifteen London, plus a formal qualification," he said.
"The money from the supper clubs is used to buy tangible items, such as books, knives and uniforms. All food and wine is donated at these events and the chefs and apprentices from Fifteen cook. It's very rustic, family-style, share-plate food that is prepared with love and often overlooked by mainstream restaurants. So far, I
raised more than $94,000 for Jamie's foundation.
"In Denmark, Joe (Gray) and I will be choosing all the produce from local suppliers in the Great Southern and I want them to have a say in the menu, as well."
A former ceramicist and lecturer who grew up on the Gold Coast, Mr McCubbin landed in the UK on a two-year working visa that stretched into a stint as Oliver's personal assistant when there were just 15 staff crammed into one office working on everything from books to school dinners and TV.
"It was a wide-ranging brief," he said. "Jamie would ask me to represent him if he didn't have time to attend and I would take graduating apprentices to Top Shop to get kitted out. He would always pay for the brand-new outfits."
In 2012, Mr McCubbin set up the UK San Patrignano Association to help residents enter Italy's biggest drug rehabilitation community, San Patrignano, on 250ha of vineyards and farmland south of Venice near Rimini on the Adriatic coast.
It has no formal links with the Jamie Oliver Foundation but Fifteen graduates regularly cook at food festivals in San Patrignano and Mr McCubbin has placed young people who have successfully finished the program with Oliver's businesses and associates.
He's also working with Hope Community Services in WA to establish a community farm around Geraldton - based on the San Patrignano model - that gives drug users focus and self-respect through skills taught in a safe and nurturing environment.
Statistics from Italy show the success rate of the three to four-year San Patrignano rehabilitation program started by philanthropist Vincenzo Muccioli in 1978 is 72 per cent - and it's totally free, including health and dental care.
Hope Community Services
spokesperson Monica Luppi said the service had a $2 million grant to buy a parcel of land to set up the farm.
"The concept of San Patrignano is so aligned with Fifteen because we take troubled youth and give them purpose,
a job and structure - and that's how they turn their life around," Mr McCubbin said.
"San Patrignano does that on a much bigger scale and I wanted to be involved with that. The program is open to anyone in the world, including Australians - there are currently 1300 people there from 28 countries - and I did counsel a young lad from Perth to enter the community but sadly he did not make it as he kept returning to drugs.
"It can be a tough decision to get your head around - the thought of going to another country, learning Italian, sharing a room with 20 other boys and girls, getting up at 6am every day and having a mentor constantly at your side to help and guide you during the first year. It's very strict, with a lot of order, a lot of rules and 52 vocations to choose from."
Mr McCubbin said food was at the heart of San Patrignano and shared meals were an important part of socialisation and recovery. Everything residents needed was either grown or reared on site, so it dovetailed with Oliver's belief that people could lead better lives through learning to cook and appreciate food.
"There's so much emphasis on pride in work and quality produce that people buy goods made on the farm because they're excellent," Mr McCubbin said. "We now sell the incredible San Patrignano cheeses at a stand called Bianca Mora, at Borough Market, and Fifteen and Barbecoa (Oliver's barbecue steakhouse) both stock San Patrignano wine.
"To Jamie's credit, he's encouraged me in this work. It's not a formal part of anything I do for him or his business, yet he's really interested in it and has given me the confidence to take it on."
The Fifteen Pop-Up Supper Club will be held on March 8 at Castelli Estate Winery, 380 Mt Shadforth Road, Denmark, starting at 6.30pm. Phone 0433 773 783, or you can buy tickets by making a $75 donation to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Taste
SupperClub. Danny McCubbin and Joe Gray will also host an invitation-only supper club on March 11 at historic Rosella House, Hope's residential rehabilitation facility in Geraldton.