Chef whips up plan to help the needy

A migrant worker receiving food on Christmas Day in Little India from Mr Muthusamy (centre) and Mr Bala. Mr Bala aims to raise enough money to cook and give away 10,000 packets to the needy by Chinese New Year. He has raised enough for 450 packets, 1
A migrant worker receiving food on Christmas Day in Little India from Mr Muthusamy (centre) and Mr Bala. Mr Bala aims to raise enough money to cook and give away 10,000 packets to the needy by Chinese New Year. He has raised enough for 450 packets, 100 of which have been given away.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

On Christmas Day, they distributed 100 packets of briyani to migrant workers and to halfway-house residents.

But the organiser of the food drive, chef Shetty Balchandra Rama - who goes by Bala - aims to raise enough money to cook and give away 10,000 packets to the needy by Chinese New Year.

It is quite ambitious for someone who came up with the idea last Monday, and who set up his thosai stall barely two months ago.

Mr Bala, 48, was inspired by a conversation with Mr Muthusamy Gnanasekaran, 32, a briyani resturant owner who was approached by customers to donate 500 packets of briyani to migrant workers.

Mr Bala then challenged him: "If you can do 10,000 briyanis... I will create a message that we will cook 10,000 meals."

Mr Muthusamyagreed. His restaurant specialises in ambur briyani - at $5 a packet - which comes from the town of Ambur in Tamil Nadu, India.

Mr Bala then set up a fund raiser, in which every $5 donated would get the workers a briyani packet, and it has already raised enough for 450 packets, 100 of which were given out on Christmas Day.

He wants to cast his net far and wide, and is speaking with halfway houses, organisations for the elderly, injured workers, abused domestic helpers and with churches.

He explained that he wanted to donate to those "for whom briyani is a luxury".

One of the two places he and his team visited on Sunday was Christian Care Services Singapore, a halfway house for ex-convicts and recovering addicts. Its executive director Gabrieyel Guna said he "was very touched that there were people out there who still think for those who are less fortunate".

Resident Anthony Gomez, 59, was released from jail in October for drug abuse, and has nowhere else to go in Singapore.

He was deeply moved by the gesture, and said: "When we got (the) food... I had tears in my eyes and tried to avoid (letting) people see me... It is a Christmas gift for me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Chef whips up plan to help the needy'. Print Edition | Subscribe