Gallic flair has long distinguished the French food and wine industry - now it is being directed towards helping underprivileged children in Hong Kong. Local charities Football for Life and Cooking for Life are the brainchildren of Toulouse-born Philippe Bru who also owns the Diadora Football League which organises Sunday and indoor leagues for 20 amateur teams in Hong Kong. It was these twin passions for food and football that inspired the wine company owner to encourage sportsmen and leading lights in the catering industry to decant some charity and help those in need. 'I felt it was a bit disappointing that football was so huge here but not doing much to help, especially with 1,500 playing regularly in leagues. Rugby was doing a lot, but it wasn't the same in football,' Mr Bru said. But efforts made towards training and funding a Hong Kong team to play in an international tournament for the homeless in early 2006 showed Mr Bru what could be done, so he formed the charity Football for Life. 'Now Football for Life has gone from zero to 15-20 volunteers helping out more than 200 children every Saturday,' he said. The charity, which has film star and football fan Eric Tsang Chi-wai as its ambassador, provides training and football kits for children from poor backgrounds. 'Because football in Hong Kong is not like America where girls are encouraged to play as well as boys, we asked what they connected with and cooking came first. So I turned to the hotels and restaurants to do something to help the girls,' said Mr Bru who was an F&B manager at the Mandarin Oriental before setting up his wine business in 1997. Cooking for Life got under way towards the end of last year and has organised visits to professionally run kitchens and markets for more than 600 youngsters. Celebrity chef Martin Yan, of Yan Can Cook fame, is backing the charity as its ambassador and more Hong Kong hotels and restaurants are giving their support. Mr Bru said that when Yan heard about the culinary charity campaign he headed to Hong Kong from the United States to lend his support. This has proved a vital ingredient for success as local hotel and restaurant associations become more involved. 'What I have done is ask the hotels to give some training and encourage the kids if they want to work in catering or become chefs. It's very important that we get them out to see some of the top kitchens and cooks in Hong Kong. 'My generation in Europe spent a lot of time between the ages of five and 10 being taken to the market by our mothers so we could learn first-hand how to smell, select and cook food,' said Mr Bru, pointing to how processed foods were becoming more prevalent. 'So we thought it would be a fantastic idea to arrange visits where Martin Yan gets the kids to experience the market and this whole atmosphere, which we knew so well before the supermarkets came along.' Mr Bru said he was astounded at how many in the luxury hotel and catering industry were unaware of the large numbers of disadvantaged children in Hong Kong. 'The interesting thing was that some didn't realise the extent of this, but now they understand and there is a compulsion to show corporate social responsibility.' But the Cooking for Life sponsor that has delighted Mr Bru most so far has been the French Chamber of Commerce. He said he hoped the organisations's support at a recent gala dinner would encourage the wider French community in Hong Kong to also support the charities.