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Ukrainian MasterChef turns restaurant into bomb shelter, cooks for soldiers and refugees

(WHNT) – A Ukrainian chef is using his skills to help his own country and its resistance to the Russian invasion. levgen Klopotenko is turning his restaurant into a bomb shelter for civilians and feeding hungry Ukrainian fighters.

Klopotenko won MasterChef Ukraine in 2015 and gained a large following from the reality TV series. Now he’s using that influence to benefit his country.

“Alot of people who are afraid around you, you need to support them if you want them to stay alive. If you want to make your country win [the war] you don’t pay attention. You see people are scared so you just give them food. The food is the fuel for now,” says Klopotenko.

Klopotenko has several clear goals: to talk about what’s happening in Ukraine, to organize feeding army members and refugees, to help Ukrainians figure out recipes that can be created with limited goods and to help fundraise for humanitarian aid.

When war broke out, he transformed his upscale traditional Ukrainian restaurant in Kyiv into a shelter and started serving meals to those in need.

“I have this basement that I changed into a bomb shelter. I reorganized my kitchen and now I’m feeding the army, the civil army and those people who were sleeping in the restaurant because they’re not allowed to go outside alot of the time because of air signals,” says Klopotenko.

He says food is fuel and he is focusing on making warm and hearty traditional dishes with whatever supplies he can get his hands on.

“For now, we eat alot of buckwheat, we eat alot of rice, we eat alot of borscht. It is our main dish because borscht is about your home. When Ukrainian people eat borscht it feels like you are at home and nothing is happening, it’s a safety,” says Klopotenko.

Klopotenko says cooking for the army and for refugees is his way of fighting back against Russians invading their land.

“If you’re sitting in a normal place in the world at a café where there is no war and some chef tells you that the food is about life, yeah it is… but for now it is 100% about life,” says Klopotenko.

This week he left behind his established team in Kyiv to feed army members and moved west to Lviv near the Poland Border to feed refugees.

“Today I was cooking for refugees in the railway station, it was like about 1,500 people so I’m doing that some days. In Kyiv, everything is organized with the team for my restaurant. They are cooking there and I’m trying to be useful here,” says Klopotenko.

He’s also helping launch the global campaign #makeborschtnotwar. Borscht is a soup traditionally made in Ukraine. Klopotenko says it is his hope that restaurants around the world will start offering the dish and serve it up with information about what’s going on in his country.

Beyond that, Klopotenko says restaurants can donate profits from Ukrainian dishes to help feed people in Ukraine where food is getting sparse.

“You can sell this in your restaurant or café or some outdoor market. You can make the borscht and donate the money to our army or our refugees,” says Klopotenko.

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