Two mad cooks: Home chefs whip up healthy meals for the COVID affected

Down with fever or fatigue, with no energy to cook – all that a COVID patient would want then, is a nutritious meal of home cooked food. And, this desire gave rise to a new army of covid warriors – the home chefs. In the pre-COVID era, they were known for delivering ghar ka khana to working folks and students or hosting regional cuisine popups. During the pandemic though, many of them are reaching out to provide healthy homemade food for affected individuals.

Reaching out with comfort food

Be it Covid positive patients, their families or those who are in the frontline – home chefs are trying their best to reach them with good comfort food. In Pune, Joravar Singh Sachdev along with wife Priyanka started distributing meals to Covid affected people when he got to know of a ‘pledge a meal’ initiative. “Instead of donation, my friend wanted to give meals to these people. Therefore, she gave me Rs. 10,000 and asked me to send out hygienic and neatly packed food. We spread the word on our social groups and asked affected people to contact us for a free meal,” says Joravar, who sent out 100 meals for the first time in the beginning of May. So far, the couple has sent out 12,500 meals in Pune. The meal boxes have a simple vegetarian fare of either veg biryani with salad or dal khichdi.

In Bangalore, Miti Desai created a platform called Recipe Of Hope, where home chefs from all across the state could come together and serve meals to COVID affected, in their respective areas. “The platform offers home cooked meals that are free of cost, but one has to pay the delivery charge. The whole initiative is rooted in the value of seeing the community as family. The home-chefs make the meals and we facilitate the whole process – right from taking orders to packaging and delivery,” says Desai, who now runs the initiative with over 80 home cooks and has sent about 125-150 meals per day in the month of May.

Putting skills to best use

For Delhi-based home cook Mrinali Haryali, who started her business last year, distributing meals at nominal prices to covid-affected people, is the top most priority now. “I had been receiving distressed calls from families stating that the whole family is down with infection and there’s no help in the house who could get food or cook. Each of these messages would be about requests for food. I thought to myself, if I’m unable to serve them now, then there’s no point of me being a chef,” she says. She has been serving vegetarian thali in different parts of Delhi at a nominal price of Rs 150. “I’m sending 50 to 80 thalis per day and I have about 20 families to look after, which is honestly stressful. But I feel it’s my duty as good food will help them get on the path of recovery,” she adds.

One common factor among all these initiatives is that all of them serve homemade comfort food with minimum spices. Simple and hygienic is their prime focus, with dishes like roti sabzi, daal chawal, etc.

“At a time when delivery partners like Swiggy and Dunzo were not active in Delhi due to strict lockdown rules, home-chefs themselves went to homes in their area to deliver fresh meals” – Mrinali Hariyali, home-chef in Delhi

“When we get texts and pictures from people who get our meal packets, we feel content. In this gloomy phase, this simple service puts a smile on our faces” – Joravar Singh Sachdev, Owner, Two Mad Cooks, Pune.