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London Chefs Raise Money for Victims in Japan, Australia, N.Z.

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Chefs work in the kitchen of Roka
Chefs work in the kitchen at Roka in central London, Aug. 30, 2007. Photographer: Will Wintercross/Bloomberg News

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- London chefs and restaurateurs are seeking to raise money for the victims of natural disasters, including last month’s tsunami in Japan, floods and fires in Australia and the earthquake in New Zealand.

Arjun Waney and Rainer Becker, the founders of Roka and Zuma, have raised 150,000 pounds ($249,000) for the International Red Cross Japan Earthquake Fund. In part this has come from the proceeds from sales of edamame, a dish ordered by more than 95 percent of customers each day.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan left almost 26,000 people dead or missing. The Japanese authorities are rebuilding roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure in the northeast of the country.

“My Japanese colleagues and I had a lot of discussions about how we could help,” said Satomi Okubo, the sake sommelier at Zuma. “I have relatives in Sendai City who lost everything and I have just heard that the wife of one of my cousins passed away. We are a Japanese restaurant and we should help.”

Okubo and her colleagues have also made 1,000 origami cranes to send to children whose families are victims.

Chefs Shane Osborn (Pied a Terre), Brett Graham (the Ledbury) and Bruno Loubet (Bistrot Bruno Loubet) will cook dinner in a Fire & Floods Gala Dinner at Australia House on May 3, with a musical set from John Helliwell of the rock band Supertramp. Tickets are 150 pounds from

Disaster Help

“In the last few months looking at the news from Australia, it’s been one disaster after another and you want to know how to help,” said Catherine Loubet, who is organizing the event. French-born Loubet and her husband hold Australian passports after they lived in the country for eight years.

Chefs who took part in a similar event on April 4 for victims of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, have so far helped raise more than 60,000 pounds. Contributions are still being collected at

The organizers, Mat Follas and Dave Ahern, were this week invited to meet John Key, New Zealand’s Prime Minister.

Among future events, Claude Bosi of Hibiscus is discussing organizing a dinner for Japan with fellow chefs including Sat Bains (Restaurant Sat Bains), Simon Rogan (L’Enclume), Simon Hulstone (The Elephant) and Daniel Clifford (Midsummer House).

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Richard Vines in London at or

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at

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