All photos courtesy of Feast Of Merit/YGap
Imagine if the richest person in town threw a lavish feast for the entire town. Everyone was invited – the poor, the disadvantaged and the forgotten – and it lasted for weeks. No expense was spared and by the end the rich benefactor was left with nothing but the satisfaction that they had brought the community together and shared their wealth in a meaningful way.
It might sound a bit like a childhood fable but for communities in Nagaland, North-eastern India, it’s a very real tradition called the Feast of Merit.
It’s also the inspiration for a restaurant (and brand new rooftop bar that opens this evening) in Melbourne. The Feast of Merit restaurant and bar is a social enterprise, where 100 percent of the profits go to YGAP programs – an organisation tackling global poverty. YGAP programs support entrepreneurs who are working to improve the lives of people living in poverty in Australia, Africa to Asia.
The restaurant, which is inspired by the slow food movement, serves a contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine and the dishes are reasonably priced, with a farm-to-table approach. It’s all about ‘eating good for social good’.
YGAP, which is led by a dynamic young team, understands that people are looking for more meaningful ways to spend their money. People want to know that their consumerism will not harm the world too much. Even better if it can be leveraged to impact the world around them.
“One of the main things to appreciate in a business like Feast of Merit is that we are making philanthropy really accessible,” says co-founder Elena Critchley. “Social enterprise can be a part of your everyday life just by being smart about it.”
To date YGAP has supported 185 entrepreneurs, who have changed the lives of almost 92,000 people living in poverty. They have a target of impacting 1 Million lives in the next three years and Feast of Merit is a key component of delivering this strategy.
Head Chef Ravi Presser leads the Feast of Merit team and the menu is full of delicious dishes like the shakshouka, a range of Middle Eastern salads and slow-cooked lamb.
A natural extension of the popular Richmond restaurant, the rooftop – which was designed by Siren Design (read more about them in Issue 30) who kindly donated their services – will also dish up Middle Eastern snacks as well as offer a wide range of local wines and brews, from both Victoria and nearby South Australia’s Clare Valley and McLaren Vale. Profits from the rooftop bar will continue to be invested back into the YGAP project.
Now that’s is what we call dining (and drinking) with purpose!