The kitchen and cooking skills of the country's top business leaders will be put on show at the annual OzHarvest CEO CookOff on Monday 2nd of March.
DVE Business Solutions' Director, Jo Schneider, will be donning an apron and putting on oven mitts to team up with Australia's top chefs to raise money for leading food rescue charity, OzHarvest.
In its fourth year, the event brings together CEOs and Managing Directors from some of Australia's top companies from all industries.
Business leaders will be challenged on their fundraising and culinary skills which will benefit some of the country's most vulnerable community members, while at the same time raising awareness about the issues of food security, homelessness and food waste.
More than 130 business leaders and 30 high profile chefs took part in last year's CEO CookOff. Since the CEO CookOff began in 2011, it has raised more than $3 million for charity.
CEOs are teamed with acclaimed chefs including Matt Moran, Guillaume Brahimi and Maggie Beer to prepare a three course meal for 1,000 of Sydney's homeless and disadvantaged.
'Since working with OzHarvest I've learnt that 60% of homeless people are under 35 years and half are women, which I was astounded by. I can't wait to get into the kitchen and cook up a storm for these guys who are doing it tough every day," says Schneider.
I cook a mean chocolate fondant dessert, so maybe I can teach the chefs a thing or two," Jo also cheekily states.
OzHarvest CEO and Founder, Ronni Kahn, says she is hopeful that participants will top last year's sterling fundraising effort.
'This event brings out the best in our business leaders who stand side by side with industry colleagues and competitors and some of the best chefs in the country, united in their efforts to really make a difference to the lives of not just their 1,000 hungry guests on the night of the CEO CookOff, but the thousands of people that OzHarvest helps every year," Kahn said.
Registrations and donations are now open at www.ceocookoff.com.au
Question: What is the OzHarvest CEO CookOff?
Jo Schneider: The CEO CookOff is an initiative of OzHarvest, bringing together celebrity chefs, CEOs and vulnerable Australians. It aims to put the spotlight on the issues of food security, homelessness and the challenges faced by youth in crisis, while raising much needed funds for Australians doing it tough.
Over 100 CEOs will descend on Carriageworks in Sydney and will be grouped into teams and paired with celebrated chefs from Australia's top kitchens. Each CookOff team will prepare a meal and experience a first-hand connection with those in need by serving food and enjoying a meal together with their guests.
Question: Why did you decide to participate in the OzHarvest CEO CookOff?
Jo Schneider: One of my entrepreneur friends participated last year and said it was the most amazing experience. It's just such a clever way of both raising awareness and money, whilst actually feeding a lot of people in the process.
It can be so easy to get caught up in the everyday activities of life and work that we forget there are those who are less fortunate. When I heard that more than 60% of homeless people in Australia are under 35 years (that's people just like me who don't have a home or food to eat!) I knew I had to do something to make a difference.
Question: Why is it important for you to support OzHarvest?
Jo Schneider: I spent my twenties building my business and now I want to give something back. The event is a perfect way for me to do that as I split my time between Adelaide and Sydney. I'm looking forward to meeting those who are doing it tough and cooking them a top dinner!
Question: What are you cooking as part of the OzHarvest CEO CookOff?
Jo Schneider: We haven't actually been told what we're cooking as yet, which is exciting! I'll be on a team with a couple of other CEOs and a celebrity chef, who will hopefully be kind to us and give us some fun tasks and something really enjoyable to make.
I love to cook, so I'm pretty excited no matter what we cook! I think it will feel a bit like being on a cooking reality TV show, I can't wait, it should be a lot of fun!
Question: How did it feel to win the Telstra Young Business Woman of Year?
Jo Schneider: I was very surprised and just so honoured to be given that title. When you're busy building a business you don't have much time to take time out to reflect on how far you've come, so these glitzy nights with tons of people in the room that you admire applauding you is a very surreal experience.
I definitely underestimated the impact that such recognition could have on the people around me and it made the whole experience so much more rewarding.
Question: What does your company DVE Business Solutions do?
Jo Schneider: DVE Business Solutions drives positive change in organisations, working holistically across the areas of people, processes, structure and technology. Most solutions have an objective to improve efficiency and service delivery.
My background as a Senior Manufacturing Engineer for Holden means I have a great understanding and expertise in lean manufacturing and continuous improvement which I apply on a daily basis for my customers who want to do more with less.
We work across all industries with particular experience in higher education, health, government and not for profit sectors.
Interview by Brooke Hunter