The influential World Central Kitchen (WCK) has joined forces with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor in India to serve freshly prepared meals to hospital staff working around the clock in seven cities across the country.
Activating initially in Mumbai, a local team of chefs prepared vegetable makhanwala with coriander rice for their first day of service.
A statement from WCK says “Meals were delivered to several hospitals in two shifts, one for the day staff and another for the night crew. We also provided frontline medical staff with juice — the area is sweltering and workers are wearing full PPE, so dehydration is a major concern.”
An organisation founded in 2010 by the Spanish-American Chef José Andrés and his wife Patricia, the World Central Kitchen aims to use food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Over time, they also learned that food can be a powerful tool to heal communities in times of crisis.
WCK teams are currently preparing more than 10,000 nourishing meals every day. Across the seven Indian cities they are currently working with (Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Chicalim), WCK states that they have served more than 50,000 meals to frontline healthcare workers so far.
How it began in India
During the 2020 lockdowns, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor realised he needed to find ways to keep his kitchen and staff motivated, despite the challenges of the pandemic. He was also determined to find a way to serve the medical fraternity.
“Chefs I spoke to were more than willing to help,” he says over a call from Mumbai. They started with 250 meals per day at Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, serving roti, rice, dal, vegetables, fruits, juice and a sweet. “As word spread, we started getting calls from other smaller hospitals to provide food for their staff. Soon, we were providing healthy and balanced meals to most of the hospital, for free.” Chef Kapoor says the hotels and team of chefs were thankful for the initiative as it made them feel helpful in the crisis. This year he joined hands with Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), which is the Taj Hotels group and Taj flight kitchen.
Ian Dubier, area director, Hyderabad and Taj Santacruz Mumbai says the company started serving meals and hosting the medical fraternity last year, at the beginning of this pandemic. He adds, “Since then we have been expanding our outreach.”
Buoyed by the project in Mumbai, Chef Kapoor says “José Andrés is a friend and when I told him we want to extend the meals to other cities, he brought in WCK.”
Although restaurants, home chefs and volunteers have been working towards helping feed the staff and patients at hospitals, continuity is a challenge at Government hospitals where the numbers are large. WCK, with its sheer manpower, infrastructure and expertise at high volume cooking, helps local teams ramp up. Its relief team will soon start work in Chennai.
IHCL’s airline catering brand — TajSats has the manpower and the resources to hygienically cook and pack a huge number of meals everyday, says Dubier. He adds, “In Hyderabad, we are delivering around 1,400 meals everyday (lunch and dinner) from Taj Falaknuma Palace and are very grateful to be associated with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and the WCK.”