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A Mystery For The Taste Budds

By Tasha Broomhall

An Interview With Sophie Budd

Sophie Budd is the chef and owner of Taste Budds Cooking Studio. She is passionate about teaching people to cook and feeding people! Her resume includes working for both Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver.

Blooming Minds Director Tasha Broomhall recently chatted with Sophie to learn more about the Mystery Box Challenge.

TB: Please tell us about the Mystery Box Challenge. Who started it?

SOPHIE BUDD: The Mystery Box Challenge began as a Taste Budds Cooking Studio activity when I first opened the cooking school in 2012. I bought produce and created Mystery Boxes for teams to cook with.

After a few years I was asked to be an Ambassador for Food Rescue, so the idea of using the rescued food and using it to make meals for local charities became a no brainer. When Food Rescue became SecondBite I decided to concentrate on sending food to one location. Tranby Homeless Centre run by Uniting WA was only a few blocks away from my kitchen so sending food there was a good idea.

TB: How does it work?

SOPHIE BUDD: The Mystery Box Challenge has evolved over the years. It is truly corporate team building with a difference as it brings together diverse teams and has them work with a shared commodity – food. Everyone eats, everyone can relate, everyone can share stories and experiences. It is also a great leveller and can flip the team dynamic with something as simple as chopping an onion.

Mystery Box Challenge is a 2-hour cooking challenge where teams turn fresh, surplus food into nourishing meals for visitors to Tranby Homeless Centre. It is a team building event full of fun, rivalry and a whole lotta heart.

Teams cook Masterchef style for 2 hours, making as much food as possible. Then they sit, eat, drink, and listen with bated breath to find out who is the winning team. Teams are scored on cleanliness, working together, how good the food tastes and using ALL the produce supplied.

TB: How far has it spread?

SOPHIE BUDD: The program has been running for 7 and a half years. We have hosted teams from all over Perth and made thousands of meals.

TB: Is it proving effective?

SOPHIE BUDD: We received feedback from a corporate client who said that it was the biggest hit! Staff from the session were posting about it on social media and nearly all agreed that the highlight of the event was the cooking challenge.

I was a bit nervous going in that it wouldn’t please everyone and maybe some people had hated it, but if they did, we didn’t hear about it. We would do it again. The real selling piece for us is the give back to community and taking people out of their comfort zone.

Leading up to Christmas 2019 Taste Budds hosted a monster cook-off where over 100 people cooked over two days, providing over 1,000 meals to Tranby visitors, keeping them fed for 6 days. Heart-warming feedback directly from one of Tranby’s clients, “When Sophie brings food there’s never any fights”.

TB: Are there plans to extend this further?

SOPHIE BUDD: Currently no, however I do dream of flying around the world and running these in lots of cities as all it takes is humans, food waste, a mobile kitchen and a formula.

TB: How can people get involved and support the project?

SOPHIE BUDD: Contact Taste Budds Cooking Studio by email cook@tastebudds.com.au or visit our website https://www.tastebudds.com.au/

TB: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

SOPHIE BUDD: I see these events as being a full circle way of dealing with current issues that are impacting our society, turning food waste into meals for hungry people.

TB: What do you wish people knew about providing food for homeless centres?

SOPHIE BUDD: There needs to be a system and organisation. As lovely as it is when people donate food sometimes the centres don’t have the facilities or the staff to handle it and too much food can be overwhelming.

sophie budd with pasta

TB: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

SOPHIE BUDD: I see these events as being a full circle way of dealing with current issues that are impacting our society, turning food waste into meals for hungry people.

TB: What do you wish people knew about providing food for homeless centres?

SOPHIE BUDD: There needs to be a system and organisation. As lovely as it is when people donate food sometimes the centres don’t have the facilities or the staff to handle it and too much food can be overwhelming.

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