About us

free to feed offers pop-up cooking experiences and classes around Melbourne either in your home, or as part of a class.

We are a Thornbury-based social enterprise with all experiences and classes run by refugees and asylum seekers.

The free to feed cooking school is fast becoming a prized Melbourne Institution and was recently awarded the “Best Cooking School in Melbourne” by Timeout. At each free to feed cooking experience or class you'll learn how to cook authentic, traditional dishes from your chef’s home country. You also get to hear their incredible stories as they relate their journeys and rich cultures to you. 

free to feed gives employment opportunities and training to asylum seekers and refugees. We help them develop the skills, confidence, and knowledge to take into future ventures.

Before fleeing their homes, free to feed chefs played important roles as cooks, chefs, restaurant owners, feeding their families and communities.

The free to feed program provides individualised training and mentoring from industry professionals culminating in a unique employment opportunity: delivering cooking experiences and classes around Melbourne.

Did you know that people from refugee backgrounds and asylum seekers have been identified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010) as some of the most entrepreneurial and resourceful of all migrants? However, research by Monash University (2017) finds that, despite having significant work experience and a desire to find meaningful employment, 80% of refugees and asylum seekers were either unemployed, working in volunteer roles, or in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs since coming to Australia.

For most of our instructors, free to feed is their first job in Australia!

Our founders

Loretta Bolotin

Co-founder & Managing Director

"I’ve been working in the refugee space for many years and I’ve supported hundreds of people seeking asylum, and what I’ve found is, for the great majority, the process of finding meaningful employment in Australia can be both challenging and disheartening." - Loretta Bolotin

Loretta has supported asylum seekers and developed community programs both in Australia and internationally. Loretta's journey begin while visiting refugees and asylum seekers held in detention both in Melbourne and Christmas Island. Since then, Loretta's She's worked in numerous roles within the humanitarian sector over the last 8 years including with the Australian Red Cross and Life Without Barriers. In 2014 Loretta spent some time in Cairo, Egypt, assisting with refugee influx prior to the birth of her first child. Loretta is passionate about embracing cultural diversity and using the power of business and consumer choices to create social change. She is the proud mother of a toddler Koan Bolotin and of the free to feed project.

Daniel Bolotin

Co-founder & Event/Operations Coordinator

Daniel is inspired by his parents’ journey to Australia as refugees from Uzbekistan in the late 70’s and the challenges they faced, and overcame, in making a life for themselves and their family. He has been working with children and families for over 10 years to improve their educational outcomes. Before all that, Daniel completed a Masters in International Development and worked to advance global youth participation for Plan Australia. Daniel is currently completing a PhD in the education field and is crazily busy with many life projects including raising his gorgeous 3 year old son. After many years of chatting with Loretta about the financial hardship and challenges gaining meaningful employment that refugees in Melbourne are experiencing, Daniel worked with her to come up with the free to feed concept.

our values

Empowerment

By hosting a free to feed experience, or by coming to a class, you're helping refugees and asylum, and allowing them to share their skills in meaningful ways.

Cultural exchange

We offer opportunities for you to meet with refugees and asylum seekers, share stories, whilst learning how to cook authentic, delicious cuisines from around the world!

Openness

Sharing a kitchen is welcoming gesture of acceptance. It’s an intimate space where the simplest and most meaningful cultural exchanges can occur.

Making connections

We believe in community and we hope that what we offer will foster genuine connections between everyday Australians and our new arrivals.