Operation Santa Claus

Maxim's pastry chef magics leftovers into tasty treats

Pastry whizz and friends visit disabled group as part of campaign to teach Hongkongers how to turn surplus food into gourmet goodies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 January, 2014, 9:36pm

Anker Lee Pui-hung is more to the Maxim's Group than assistant executive pastry chef - he's also the company's designated Santa Claus.

The cheerful 55-year-old, who has been with the group for three decades, says he doesn't mind the task as long as he can help make a difference in the community.

More than 3,500 tonnes of food waste are disposed of by Hongkongers each day, with most of it going into the city's landfills.

Each Christmas, Lee puts his talents to use in helping solve the city's waste woes.

This year, Lee and more than a dozen employees from the company's volunteer team visited the Federation of Handicapped Youth in Lok Fu.

There they showed a group of disabled children and adults how to turn surplus food into a variety of Christmas goodies.

"There are actually many ways of utilising so-called surplus food, to prevent it from becoming food waste," said Lee, who has helped create some of Maxim's signature cakes.

With a bit of magic - and dressed in full Santa get-up - he turned some surplus bread and cake into delicious new creations.

Heat-treated, carved and then toasted, bread crusts and cake surplus from a Maxim's bakery are brought back to life in the form of gingerbread men, cakes and cookies shaped like Christmas trees and snowmen. Egg whites and leftover sugar are used to create decorative icing.

"These are environmentally friendly treats," said the chef.

The event was part of Operation Santa Claus, a charity campaign jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, backed by several corporate donors such as Maxim's.

One of the Operation Santa goals this year was to raise funds to buy the federation a new rehab bus. The group organises sports, music practice, art classes and other activities for people with physical disabilities.

But only two buses are currently available for use by the more than 4,000 members of the federation.

Fion Leung Suet-ying, a district manager for Maxim's Cakes, was one of the volunteers at the event.

"I really enjoy contributing to society. Every time I see people who are in need happy, I am happy too," she said.

The company has been invested in surplus food donation efforts since 2009, donating leftover hot food to various food recovery organisations who produce free lunchboxes for the underprivileged.

More than one million surplus bread items were donated to the company's 72 non-profit partners last year, the group said.