Chef School grad recounts experience working in Ukraine with World Central Kitchen (WCK)

GBC grad Joe Sarnovsky with fellow WCK volunteers

After preparing thousands of meals for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, George Brown College Chef School graduate Joe Sarnovsky got to meet some of the people he had travelled so far to help. 

Sarnovsky recently spent a week volunteering in Przemysl, Poland, about 10 kilometres from the Ukraine border, with World Central Kitchen (WCK), an organization that provides meals to people affected by humanitarian, climate and community crises. He spent his eight-hour workdays in the kitchen and then volunteered in the evenings to distribute sandwiches, soups, and beverages to refugees arriving at the local train station. He described the experience as “emotional and overwhelming.” 

"The interaction with the Ukrainian people certainly was a highlight for me," he said of his experience. “Had I not done that, it might have felt like something was missing. I had a full-circle experience, making the food, handing out the food and interacting with them, even though we didn't speak the same language.” 

35,000 sandwiches in a week 

GBC grad Joe Sarnovsky with WCK founder Jose Andres

Sarnovsky said his days with WCK started with chopping vegetables for soups and other dishes, and then he worked with others to assemble approximately 5,000 sandwiches a day. 

“In total, we made about 35,000 sandwiches while I was there. And as soon as we made them, they were going out on trucks to be distributed to all the different locations they service,” he said. “It's unbelievable the system they have in place.” 
Sarnvosky also got to meet WCK Founder José Andrés during his trip (pictured right).  

“I was so fortunate to be able to meet him and thank him for all he's done,” Sarnovsky said. “He spent 45 minutes giving us a recap of how things are going in Ukraine and outlining different things that they're doing within the country.” 

Support from George Brown College 

Sarnovsky recently graduated from the Culinary Skills program and when he decided to put his new skills to work helping others, he connected with George Brown College President Dr. Gervan Fearon, who expressed his support. The George Brown College Foundation then stepped up to cover $2,000 of Sarnovsky’s travel expenses.  

Sarnovsky met Fearon at his convocation ceremony and gave him a WCK t-shirt as a token of thanks. Fearon mentioned Sarnovsky's volunteer efforts during his convocation address. 

“Everybody at George Brown has been so wonderful,” Sarnovsky said. 

Photo, top: Joe Sarnovsky, centre, in George Brown College t-shirt, with fellow WCK volunteers in Poland.