Meet the Worksmith Relief Grant Recipients

By: Worksmith

A couple of months ago, we put the word out that we had five cash grants valued at $1000 to give to people in our industry doing it tough due to COVID-19. Over two weeks, we spent our evenings sifting through thousands of applications from hospitality workers who are doing it tough. 95% Of those applicants were in Victoria alone. There was no strategy needed - the need for help was strong enough for people to seek it out themselves.

From Owners to Kitchen Hands, from Executive Chefs to Junior Baristas; there isn’t one job role in this industry that hasn’t been grossly affected by COVID-19; high percentages of lost business, visa-holders ineligible for government assistance, lost jobs, lost dreams. It wasn't easy, but on the other end of the spectrum, we learned what these thousands of people love about hospitality, why they will return to this industry, and how they would spend their money if they were recipients. We had countless applicants who would spend their grant money on celebrating/helping their team members, the same team members who were there drive for returning to work. We also had applicants who loved the rush and the unexpectedness of working in hospitality, who would spend their winnings on bettering their business when they opened their doors again. All at once, it was harrowing and heartening, But oh, the tears and the happiness shared over $1000. This industry and the people in it need more help.

It’s been a hell of a reminder as to why Worksmith exists, and an excellent motivator for our team to work even harder to continue to grow our industry and to create a sustainable future for those who work in it.

We’re stoked to have been able to help our recipients below continue to grow within our industry. We’d like you to get to know them.

Lily Stokes, Owner and Operations Manager, Theodore’s

Theodore's is a family-owned, family-run 'mixed business' that serves up snacks, refreshments and incredible hospo-to-the-core service in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.

19 Years of industry experience couldn't prepare Lily and the team at Theodore's for the current situation we all find ourselves in, and since COVID restrictions came into effect, Theodore's has nearly been wiped out.

Theodore's, however, has prevailed, and it was in Lily's application that she told us "through the resilience and adaptations we have demonstrated, and the overwhelming response from our community to it all, we are still standing".

As the first recipient of $1000 from the Worksmith COVID Relief Grant, Lily plans on using the money to buy wine directly from the barrel, reducing costs, waste, and helping to improve their week-to-week margins.

Mauro Callegari, Chef/Owner, The Independent, Gembrook

35 Years is a long time to stick around doing one thing, but when you do something that you love and you love every aspect of it - from "the challenges of owning/running a business to the adrenaline each night of service" - you don't get off that ride.

Mauro is a leader of our industry in every sense of the word, and there's no finer example of leadership than putting others ahead of yourself. Even though he's recorded a loss of 90% of the business, has had to stand down 21 of his staff, and is currently living/operating out of his personal savings, Mauro will be distributing his grant money amongst a few of his team members who are doing it extra tough.

When we spoke to Mauro, he immediately offered up a restaurant voucher/cooking class to be used to raise money for visa holders who work in hospitality. We'd say this puts him at legendary-status.

Yoko Hayasaka, Bar and Operations Manager, Hoo Haa Bar

Yoko has worked in the hospitality industry for 12 years and is the operations manager at Hoo Haa bar just off Chapel Street, Windsor. A vibrant bar full of wonderful people and great cocktails.

With Yoko's share of the reward from the Worksmith COVID-19 Relief Grant, she tells us she plans on distributing it between the visa workers in her team. For those in the Hoo Haa team who were eligible for JobKeeper they kindly donated money from their earnings so that the 5 international staff could remain employed.

People say 'we're in this together' all too often, but with Yoko and the team at Hoo Haa, it's more than evident that those are the words they uphold and put into practice.

Ben Mitchell, Chef de Partie

Ben started his career in hospitality over six years ago, and has never looked back. He tells us one of the big reason he loves this industry so much is that he’s never found another place where he has felt so accepted and cared for.

Ben is here in Australia as a temporary visa holder, and, like thousands of others, he has had to drain his superannuation and savings just to stay afloat. Despite the hardships he’s facing, Ben says the way that the industry has come together to care for one another during COVID-19 has cemented his love for hospo, and made him even prouder to call it the industry he works in.

Robert Ball, The Establishment Bar, Dubbo.

Robert has been working in Hospitality for 15 years, and leading Dubbo's first speakeasy bar, it's not hard to see why this favourite thing about hospitality is the new and exciting challenges that are thrown at him each day (COVID challenge not included)!

The pandemic forced Robert and his team at The Establishment into a takeaway and cocktail delivery service until they were recently given the go-ahead from the NSW Government to re-open their doors.

Though they have been able to return to table service, it's not without its hurdles (and numerous additional costs to meet new requirements). It's a struggle, but Robert tells us that maintaining a positive 'We can do this' mindset has been a great motivator to keep going. He challenges himself and his team each day to "think outside the box and do whatever it takes to make the best impression possible to our customers." Hospitality at its best!