Feast Of Merit – a YGAP Project

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YGAP stands for Y-Generation Against Poverty. This is a non-profit organisation full of bright young volunteers with a social conscience. They call themselves ‘an incubator for social change’. I just call them bloody awesome.  Their CEO and co-founder is Elliot Costello, social entrepreneur and all-round good bloke.FeastOfMerit4

I first became aware of YGAP through social media posts around their 5 Cent Campaign in 2013, which was successful in raising over $130K for charity projects in Australia, Cambodia and Rwanda.

Their latest undertaking is Feast of Merit,  a ‘communal dining house’ located at 117 Swan St, Richmond, serving breakfast and lunch 7 days a week, and dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

FeastofMerit28 FeastofMerit25 FeastofMerit26 FeastofMerit29It was wonderful to hear that Salvatore Malatesta of  St Ali Coffee Roasters, was happy to share some love for the Feast of Merit cause, and has donated a coffee machine and equipment, plus 2 years’ supply of coffee beans, and a signature espresso blend has been developed. More generosity came from Melbourne-based manufacturer LUUS, who fitted out the kitchen.

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Alby Tomassi, co-founder and no stranger to hospitality (think Café Banff and Jimmi Jamz) notes that the smooth operation of the venue, after being open for such a short time (a little over 2 weeks at time of writing) can be attributed to many of the staff being involved in renovations, painting, cleaning, and setting up in the months and weeks leading up to the opening. Also being part of something they believe in, they have formed strong bonds and friendships based on a mutual passion. Everyone is happy coming to work, including Alby (pictured below with his trademark smile).  Business Manager Shaun Anderson is another YGAP’er whose demeanour is relaxed, friendly and welcoming each time you visit, greeting first-timers like old friends.

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In their own words, the ‘Feast of Merit’ is a “community concept inspired by a festive ritual in Nagaland, North Eastern India, whereby a wealthy member of the village will liquidate all their assets to throw a huge celebratory feast for their community. The festival can last for several weeks, bringing together all of the village’s poor and underprivileged members, as everyone feasts and celebrates together through a distribution of wealth that empowers and unifies the community”

The food has a local and sustainable focus – they use Hopkins River Beef, line caught fish, with origin and seasonality being important to chef Ravi Presser (ex Bar Lourinha , Circa, Cumulus Inc and more recently, Fonda).  They have D.O.C wine on tap in kegs, eliminating bottle and left-over waste, as well as some selected local wines, ciders and beers by the glass and bottle. There is also an intriguing range of Ayurvedic Tonics, freshly pressed juices, and ‘enlightened’ smoothies.

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There is a definite Middle Eastern slant to the menu, and ethical, healthy, nourishing dishes are the cornerstone of chef Ravi’s offerings.

Price is also a factor, with the idea being that good food should be accessible and affordable. No dish on the menu is over $23.

The cost of the meals however, belies the beautiful quality and range of options on the menu.  Apart from the Launch event which I attended as a guest, showcasing the dinner menu, and containing such gems as eggplant, lemon and pomegranate dip, fried cauliflower salad with blackened onions, Hopkins River porterhouse with horseradish and garlic paste, and a milk pudding with figs and caramelized sugar, I have visited again since for both breakfast and lunch, and each time the food has been beautifully presented, with gorgeous combinations of flavours and ingredients.

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Highlights have included a dish of backyard fruits – plums, figs and grapes, chia seeds, orange blossom, yoghurt ice and smoked almonds, and harissa toast with kale, silverbeet, ricotta, avocado and egg. Of the range of salads on offer at lunchtimes, my favourite  so far has been the asparagus, green bean,pea, soybean, fennel and verjus.

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I was initially invited to the Launch event as a guest, in the hope that I would spread the word about this worthwhile social enterprise, and share the information provided to me with other people, via social media.  Since that visit I have returned twice to spend my own money there, invited friends to do the same, and will continue to do so in the future.

As with most of what I promote on social media, I’m not being paid to do it – I simply believe in it, I like it and I’m passionate about it.  I started blogging 5 years ago because I was passionate about sharing information about food and travel experiences. I still am.  If I’m working for someone I will disclose that.  If I eat/drink somewhere and it’s an invite I’ll disclose that too.

I choose to be positive, encouraging, supportive. I enjoy helping others share their message where I can.

Live and let live.  Oh, and lighten up.

“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”

The Holstee Manifesto 2009.

The Feast of Merit Cloak, bestowed with great honour upon the villager who shares his wealth with his community
The Feast of Merit Cloak, bestowed with great honour upon the villager who shares his wealth with his community
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