“The government isn’t paying a cent”: Not eligible for JobKeeper, Shobosho chefs are still cooking for the vulnerable


Shobosho's Adam Liston. Source: supplied.

Following the COVID-19 forced closure of award-winning Adelaide restaurant Shobosho, chef and partner Adam Liston put out a rallying cry on social media that has been embraced by fellow chefs — for the government to employ them to cook for the vulnerable, and healthcare workers.

Despite most Shobosho staff not being eligible for government support in the form of JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments, the team of chefs are now voluntarily cooking for the WestCare Centre – run by Baptist Care SA, which provides a range of services to assist homeless, unemployed or socially isolated individuals.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and Liston’s subsequent social media posts, have also sparked a new venture for the business, Dr Sho, which is currently providing meals for delivery to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

“Like everyone else, we were placed in a position where we didn’t have any work, and were forced to close our doors,” Liston tells SmartCompany.

“I put out a social media post, as I felt that [food services for] hospitals, healthcare workers and charities would start to struggle, and I received a huge response.

“The team is now cooking for over 150 homeless people through the WestCare Centre. We are working off donations, and cook with the products that OzHarvest and FoodBank drop at the restaurant.”

Liston says Dr Sho came about as healthcare professionals were working overtime, and proximal cafes and restaurants were closing.

“Following the social media post, it was indicated to me that they needed a nourishing product that they could pre-purchase after 13-14 hour days,” he says.

“We’re working with the Royal Adelaide Hospital at the moment but, with Shobosho opening from Thursday to Saturday, we are looking to expand this service.”

Most of our staff don’t qualify for government payments

When Liston put the call out to his Instagram followers, he did not anticipate some of the red tape that would be involved in arranging the voluntary service for WestCare.

Despite receiving interest from chefs outside Shobosho, they were not able to take on external volunteers, as the kitchen was not big enough to handle social distancing measures.

“What we’re doing now is not an issue, as we have managed the kitchen with the staff we are using,” he says.

“The logistical challenge is having to say no to extra people, because there’s nowhere to work.”

View this post on Instagram

@shobosho has 22 kitchen staff…. of which 4 including me qualify for government assistance…. Yesterday at #westcare (Adelaide’s largest provider of food for our cities less fortunate) all volunteers onsite were stood down due to risk of COVID-19 @shobosho volunteers were not due to us not working onsite…. together with West Care we now have had to tweak our service to make sure these people get fed…… Why is it @scottmorrisonmp @steven_marshallmp that ALL 22 of my kitchen staff decided with or without your government assistance…. that EVERY single one of them chose to rock up and help Australians in need??? I thought our country was based on multiculturalism and making sure no matter what your background, religion, appearance or gender…. as a population we would look after each other….. #standup

A post shared by Adam Liston (@adam_liston) on

Liston also says that only four of the restaurant’s 22 chefs qualify for JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments, as most are not permanent Australian residents, or they have been working at Shobosho for less than 12 months.

“Every staff member has volunteered their time [for WestCare] and continues to do so, and the government is not paying a cent,” he says.

“That’s the most frustrating part.”

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.


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