Restaurants Across London Step Up Efforts to Cook for Health Workers

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Claridge’s, London. Source: Maybourne Hotel Group

Bloomberg: A Michelin-starred chef is today leading one of the biggest efforts yet to cook for National Health Service workers as restaurants and hotels across London step up to provide nutritious meals for doctors, nurses and other frontline staff in hospitals and clinics.

The new team of about 20 chefs from leading restaurants has taken over the kitchens at Le Pont de la Tour to prepare 1,000 lunches a day for staff at University College Hospital. The first meal — of braised lamb neck, mashed potato, carrots and mint gravy — will be cooked today for delivery tomorrow morning. There will be 700 meat portions and 300 vegetarian ones each day.

The U.K. is on lockdown because of the coronavirus, with all restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs closed. The death toll has passed 2,900 and citizens must stay home unless they have to travel to work, or to go out for essential shopping or exercise.

“The frontline people need our support to have a nutritious meal to save lives,” said project leader Larry Jayasekara, who held a Michelin star when he ran Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus restaurant in Belgravia. “It could be our friends and family affected by this dreadful virus.” Jayasekara is  joined by chefs from several restaurants, including those of Pont de la Tour owners D&D London Ltd.

The cost of as much as £2.5 million ($3.1 million) for the Meat Force project is being met by two entrepreneurs who do not wish to be identified, Jayasekara said.

They are far from alone in this effort. In a separate initiative, 500 meals are being prepared daily in the kitchen at Claridge’s and then distributed to hospitals and community services across London. The teams from the Connaught and the Berkeley – the other two properties in the Maybourne Hotel Group  –  will also help work on this project in alliance with the Helpforce charity organization.

As many as 40 key workers from St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, will be accommodated at Claridge’s from tomorrow, and the Connaught and the Berkeley may also help. Sadly, there won’t be any chocolates on the pillows. The group has already donated thousands of hotel amenities, from soaps to toothbrushes and candies, to help the charity effort.

Almost 200 hotels have made more than 20,000 beds available across the country for NHS staff and other vital workers, following a call from the trade body UK Hospitality.

The meals being served from Claridge’s kitchen are likely to include beef bourguignon with mashed potato; braised Moroccan lamb shoulder; mushroom and beetroot Bolognese;  roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and onion gravy; pea and walnut risotto.

Leon and other restaurants are supporting a crowdfunding plan to get 6,000 meals a day into London hospitals for care staff and then across the nation. The £1 million Feed NHS campaign is led by actors Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Matt Lucas. So far, it has raised about 620,000 pounds. At least 14 restaurants are supporting the appeal, include Dishoom, Tortilla, Franco Manca, Wasabi, and Rosa’s, the I newspaper reported.

Otto’s restaurant is also seeking backing as it provides meals for staff at St’ Thomas’ Hospital. Meals for the NHS is another group seeking funding.

‘‘We now have demand for 15,000 plus meals from over 20 (and growing) hospitals in the U.K.,” the Meals for the NHS website says. It has raised more than £540,000.