London chef refuses to close his restaurant during COVID lockdown, here's why
As the second wave of COVID continues to cause menace in several parts of the world a fourth-generation Indian restaurateur recently spoke about how he kept his Covent Garden premises open through the Covid pandemic to help feed thousands of needy Londoners.
Instead of welcoming tourists, office workers and regulars to the 75-year-old Punjab Covent Garden restaurant, the team started cooking meals and delivering to thousands needy as well as provided supplies to food banks throughout London, local media reported.
The restaurant's owner, Amrit Maan said, "I made a conscious decision not to close. For us Covent Garden is a village, it's a community. I just refuse to have the kitchens closed. It doesn't make sense. It gives you hope."
When the lockdown started, Maan said he soon decided to use his kitchens for helping the communities in need. The restaurant which specializes in North Indian cuisine was founded by his great-grandfather Gurbachan Singh Maan and celebrated its 75th birthday this year.
Talking about people who joined the cause as volunteers, Maan said, "There are people out there who are compassionate and courageous. I am dumbstruck by the incredible humanity and care of the volunteers."
He added, "You could sit at home and just shut the curtains and watch TV but I knew I was sitting on a blessed asset our kitchens are industrial kitchens. We have been helping the homeless for three or four years."
He even moved out of his family home to stay at the restaurant to keep his elderly parents safe during the first lockdown. Seven of the 40 staff stayed at the premises to help with the food aid. The team started making wraps for volunteers working with the charity Under One Sky to give to homeless people in London.
Talking about it Maan said "We were really blessed with the volunteers, they are an army of angels. With lockdown, there was nobody about and so some people were very hungry."
Some of those people hadn't eaten for days. They helped make 100,000 meals, while Mr Maan started helping food banks and they've done about 50,000 meals for them. His team delivered urgent supplies to the food banks using their links with suppliers. Maan joined forces with other volunteers feeding the homeless and other needy communities.
He said, "It can happen to anyone. When you talk to people they have such life stories, trauma, abuse, poverty, domestic abuse."
Maan continued, "People may be homeless but they are not hopeless. We are there for them. Sometimes when I went out on the walks I asked people what they fancied and they asked for a cup of tea. It made people's day. It's not just the tea, it's not just the food, it's the human relationship."
His team supplied food to many other voluntary groups helping to feed the homeless and those who've lost jobs or struggled during the last year. The team clocked up more than 100,000 hot meals that have been provided to homeless organisations such as Nishkam SWAT, Gur Seva, Under One Sky and our local church St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square.
He's also joined volunteers who have come together as Under One Sky to help give out nutritious food to rough sleepers in the centre of London. Right now, the kitchen is buzzing as staff cook up meals for a campaign to help feed people.
During the second lockdown, more appeals for hot meals came in from food banks and groups supporting the needy across London. So he launched a fundraising appeal to help feed more people to meet the growing need. Despite the pandemic, the business has never shut its kitchens in its entire history.
This entire team effort was made possible through the goodwill staff, reserves and the ability to purchase in bulk, but also from donations of food from businesses that had to close and partnering charities.