Down but not out: Swiss chef keeps passion burning thru community kitchen for ‘Odette’ victims

GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 17 January) — Despite the total destruction of his restaurant in Siargao Island during the onslaught of typhoon Odette last month, Swiss chef Ivo Zwicker did not abandon the place he had learned to love.

The 33-year-old Zwicker owned the Kung Fu Ganda restaurant, which was completely smashed by Odette’s wrath. It was located along Tourism Road in General Luna town.

Swiss chef Ivo Zwicker, whose restaurant in General Luna, Siargao Island got completely smashed by typhoon Odette last month, continues his passion for cooking through the Vedya community kitchen. Zwicker cooks meals for at least 300 people on Monday, 17 January 2022. MindaNews photo by ROEL CATOTO

The destruction of his restaurant did not dampen his passion for cooking. Instead, he keeps it burning though a community kitchen helping local typhoon victims.

Instead of abandoning the typhoon-ravaged island, Zwicker volunteered to cook at Vedya Restaurant, one of the restaurants spared by Odette that has been feeding different communities on the island.

Zwicker flew to Manila five days after the typhoon hit the island,  and was thinking of returning home to his home country.

“But I felt so sad for the people and my conscience tells me not to abandon the place I learned to love,” he said.

So after a few days in Manila,  Zwicker went back to the island to continue his passion.

“To cook for the hungry and needy,” Zwicker told this writer.

Zwicker came to the island in September 2019 and decided to start his own restaurant business then.

“For more than a year, it’s all disaster due to the COVID-19 pandemic that brought us down. Then super typhoon Odette knocked us. (These disasters pounded us) but not our passion,” Zwicker said.

“It’s been sad and we are unfortunate with our business, but I’m more than happy to share my passion to the people – the needy and poor who lost everything,” he added.

Vedya community kitchen serves a few hundred meals daily to various communities on the island.

The restaurant is known for their sumptuous vegetarian meals on the island before typhoon Odette struck.

“We are now cooking a healthy, balanced diet that includes meat, pork and vegetables (for the typhoon victims),” Zwicker said.

Filipino-German Erik Reinnermann, who extended humanitarian help to the island, lauded Zwicker and the staff of Vedya for their feeding program.

“They keep the fire burning in the kitchen by giving food to hungry stomachs,” Reinnermann said.

Reinnermann and his team provide back-up support to the Vedya community kitchen.

Catangnan Barangay Captain Joselito Saavedra of General Luna has been thankful to the unwavering support to their community.

“Our people have been receiving the food they cooked. They are heroes in these troubled times,” Saavedra said.

Wendy Lin, 28, a freelance reporter from China who was vacationing in Siargao Island when the typhoon hit, has also volunteered for the Vedya community kitchen.

“We deliver the food to different communities in Siargao Island,” she said smiling. “It’s truly amazing to see people helping one another.”

Lin was in the island when typhoon Odette pummeled last December 16. She was was able to raise funds amounting to 1.4 million pesos with the help of her friends.

The money was used to purchase canned goods, medicines, bottled drinking water, solar lights and construction materials, she said. (Roel Catoto / MindaNews)