Yarmouth chef, caterer and restaurant owner Christian Hayes is flying to the Ukraine border next week to join the nonprofit group World Central Kitchen as it feeds Ukrainian war refugees.

Hayes, chef-owner of The Garrison, Thoroughfare and Dandelion Catering Co., announced his plans this week on Facebook. He said his restaurants will also be running specials while he’s away to raise funds for the Ukrainian relief effort.

Christian Hayes stands in the garden seating area at The Garrison in 2020. Hayes is headed overseas next week to help feed Ukrainians fleeing from war. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“It’s a terrible time to leave, with two restaurants and a catering company, as well as beginning the renovation of our corner store (Dandy’s Handy Store), but the strength and encouragement of my wife and business partner, Christine, and the team I have, adds a deep validity to it,” Hayes stated in a written response to questions from a reporter.

“I didn’t even want to tell anyone, because this is and never will be about me,” Hayes continued. “But I made a post about it because I’m so proud of my teams at The Garrison and Thoroughfare for stepping up and running fundraising special menus while I’m gone, and if I can show people that there are humans that truly and simply care about extending their hands to others who are suffering, perhaps it’s one step closer to a kinder world.”

Hayes plans to fly to the border city of Przemysl, Poland on March 16. He plans to stay and work with World Central Kitchen for 14 days. He and his wife are paying for his travel and lodging expenses.

Inspired by Andres


Star Washington D.C. chef and lauded humanitarian Jose Andres founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, following a devastating earthquake in Haiti. The group dispatches chefs and mobile kitchens around the globe to feed hungry victims of natural disasters and other crises, including people affected by bombings in Beirut and those struggling to feed themselves through the pandemic. World Central Kitchen has served more than 60 million meals over the last 12 years, according to its website.

After traveling two days by bus and foot, a Ukrainian family made it over the border to safety in Poland on Tuesday. They stopped for some World Central Kitchen food before continuing their journey to Germany. Photo courtesy of World Central Kitchen

Hayes said he recently joined World Central Kitchen as a volunteer, spurred by the Ukraine crisis.

“It was an impulse decision,” Hayes said. “I’m new to the initial registered volunteer role, but have always admired (World Central Kitchen’s) efforts in utilizing the power and drive of chefs to aid humanitarian crisis.”

In his Facebook post, Hayes also called Andres “a humanitarian, a selfless hero, and an inspiration.”

World Central Kitchen spokesperson Lisa Abrego said the volunteer chefs started serving hot meals to Ukrainians within hours of the initial Russian invasion, and that mobile kitchens are now set up at eight border crossings with Poland. “Our response has grown rapidly, and WCK teams are establishing meal distribution points across six countries, including Hungary, Moldova, Romania and, soon, Slovakia,” she said.

Inside Ukraine, World Central Kitchen is also helping Ukrainians who stayed by partnering with local restaurants to provide meals in five cities and at two border crossings, Abrego said.

“I know that there are plenty of restaurants, businesses, and community members who are doing amazing things here in Maine to help the millions of refugees,” Hayes said. For instance, Leroux Kitchen has announced that its five stores, including its Portland and Scarborough locations, have started accepting donations both in person and by phone for World Central Kitchen’s work in Ukraine, and will match up to $2,500.

Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Oxbow Brewing is crafting a beer for the Brew for Ukraine Victory Beer Series sponsored by Pravda Brewing in Ukraine, and planning to donate proceeds from the special brew – available for purchase later this spring – to war relief charity. But because the need for help is so immediate, Oxbow Director of Operations Greg Jasgur said it will donate $5,000 toward Ukraine war relief this week.

“I am such a small part in the machine of the local and global effort,” Hayes said.

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