Tony Pereira, 51, is an international chef who lives in Venezuela. He begins work every day at 7:00 am but gets up at 4:00 am and goes to the parish of Saint Sebastian of Maiquetia. As soon as he enters the church, he kneels before the Blessed Sacrament. Then he lights the fire in an old kitchen and begins to prepare menus for his special guests.
The condiment that abounds in his dishes is affection. Although the ingredients are simple, they are difficult to obtain in a country sunk in misery. For Tony and his helpers, it’s a challenge to find what is necessary, but the chef makes use of his creativity to make the menu as varied as possible. Today he is serving chicken and rice – “ten kilos of rice and four or five chicks,” says Tony in a loud voice.
His guests are about 150, between the children and elderly who go to his improvised soup kitchen every day, located in the patio of the parish, for their one hot meal of the day. Parish priest Martin Vegas receives the guests happily, knowing that many of them wouldn’t have anything to eat if they didn’t go there.
Tony doesn’t like to talk about what he does. He says he does so “because in the face of each one of these children and elderly I see the face of Christ.” He always wears a wooden cross, which says it all. He becomes sad when speaking of the situation in his country, but he acknowledges that there are many people helping.
Aid to the Church in Need supports several projects in Venezuela, to help finance the hundreds of soup kitchens in the country’s dioceses.