LONDON: A British-Moroccan chef and entrepreneur is bringing a smile to dozens of key workers and homeless people in England during the coronavirus lockdown by cooking and distributing 150 restaurant-style meals every day.
Khalid Dahbi, 39, the executive resident chef at British concierge company Quintessentially, said he is keeping his kitchen open during the coronavirus outbreak to provide nutritious food to frontline workers as a way of giving back to society.
“For me, it’s another way of having fun,” Dahbi told Arab News. “Amid the darkness of the coronavirus pandemic, if I can make people smile through my food, then I’ve succeeded.”
He said his meals are gourmet standard, and he has been serving dishes such as risotto with truffles, grilled supreme of free-range chicken with risotto primavera, smoked salmon sandwiches, and risotto primavera with grilled chicken and salsa.
“The meals aren’t served hot, but we ask recipients of the meals to heat them up,” Dahbi said. “They’re served in packaging that’s suitable for ovens and microwaves, so they just need to warm the food up and they have a restaurant-style meal.”
The British government has introduced a lockdown and social-distancing measures to slow the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The measures include restaurant closures, which make it difficult for key workers such as nurses and police officers, who have stretched schedules and work round the clock, to obtain food.
“There are a lot of people in London who don’t have access to hot food, and with everything closed, I’m taking the opportunity to cook some gourmet meals for nurses and other key workers, Dahbi said, adding that he and his team are “keen to deliver” and distribute meals wherever they are needed.
“A few friends of mine who work for the NHS (National Health Service) recently called me and told me that nurses have very little options for food and that they can only buy cold sandwiches at the hospital cafeteria,” he said.
“So we cooked some food and put it into our vans and took it over to London Bridge Hospital, where a member of staff made sure that around 30-40 nurses had a nice hot meal.”
Dahbi said he is preparing the meals solely to help others and has always “loved giving back.”
He added: “I’m giving to the areas where there’s a real necessity. Yesterday I went to Charing Cross Police Station. The police don’t have access to hot food. We walked into the police station and were welcomed with open arms. They accepted all the food we gave them and thanked us immensely because they needed it. There was nothing around. Even if you bring food from home, it’s not the same thing.”
Although 80 percent of the meals that Dahbi cooks are given to frontline workers, he has also distributed food to homeless shelters in Covent Garden, Camden and Marylebone.
“If I come across anybody on the streets on my way to these shelters, I’ll stop and open my boot and give them a meal,” he said.
Dahbi, who also owns a pizzeria and restaurant in Covent Garden, covers the costs of the meals that he and his team of five chefs make, as well as their wages. He said it is a way of keeping his team in employment during these difficult times.
“It’s my way of investing in my team and keeping them busy, because I don’t want to lose these people who’ve been with me for such a long time, so it’s a good way to get them involved, and of course they’re being paid as well,” he added.
Paying tribute to his team, he said: “I’m successful because of the people around me. Without them I’d be nothing. They stand by me on a daily basis, and for me to turn my back on them isn’t something I’d consider.”