George Karounis: Our Big Kitchen
George’s warmth nourishes bodies and souls across a state
With his infectious enthusiasm and can-do attitude, George Karounis is the heart and soul of an iconic Bondi institution that delivers 80,000 meals a year to people in need across NSW.
George is the manager of Our Big Kitchen, a community run, industrial-sized kitchen. He is the man responsible for ensuring volunteers are rostered, ingredients and donations are sourced and meals are prepared, packed and passed on to people who need them.
“It is about coordinating high school groups, university groups, charities and individuals and getting them to cook a lot of meals. It really is a huge organisational challenge,” George says.
The kitchen is non-denominational and all meals are both kosher and halal. Anybody can come in to ask for food, but most are distributed via organisations such as the Salvation Army, St Vincent’s De Paul, Lou’s Place, Wayside Chapel, Jewish House and The Greek Orthodox Church.
An aim of the kitchen is to connect and empower people to have them all work together to make a difference. George puts his heart into providing meaningful volunteering opportunities that are especially popular with young people seeking experience for Duke of Edinburgh awards.
There are also opportunities for corporate team building and the kitchen staff delight in hosting children’s birthday parties at which the host and their guests bake and decorate delicious party food that is then packaged up for all guests to take home.
In line with the spirit of giving, each child leaves with two of everything, one for them and one to make someone else happy.
Known for his focus on helping people “in the now”, George centres his attention every day on support and education for volunteers and recipients alike.
“We aren’t thinking about long-term solutions. They’re important, but if you’re hungry and living in a park you need a meal today,” George says.
“The meals are one way of telling people we care.”
George says he is proud to have been recognised by his community and voted as a Westfield Local Hero.
Our Big Kitchen will use its $10,000 Westfield grant on much-needed upgrades to the cooking and serving equipment, including a new oven that should allow the centre to cook even more meals for people in need.