– Ayshwaria Lakshmi
For some, being a Chef is a job to meet their monthly expenses. For a few, it is a passion. But, there is another set of people for whom, their profession is their life and at times they are ready to sacrifice anything for the profession they opted for in. While the front-line heroes from various sectors are working tirelessly fighting for COVID, lesser spoken are those who support them. ChefBharath.com brings you a story of a Chef who led the team of earnest stars to take care of the Chennai’s Frontline warriors during the pandemic.
Sheetharam Prasad, Corporate Executive Chef, of a leading hotel who headed the kitchen brigade would have comfortably sat in his cabin and ordered his team to get things right.
However, he had other ideas. As a true leader, he himself went out on the streets, moved around from markets to markets, procuring vegetables, and raw materials needed to cook for the fort line workers of the pandemic. He was unaware of the fact that he had risked his life and realized it when his results came positive for COVID. He and his team were serving around 2500 frontline workers every day for the past three months. The property even housed the quarantined frontline workers. This was sponsored by them free of cost and rarely did they have a minimal charge. Things were fine when the Chef was asked to undergo testing as a safety norm.
“I was tested positive for COVID-19 but asymptomatic. I sat down for one of the tests happening for the doctors quarantined in the hospital,” Sheetharam shares who immediately got himself quarantined in one of the nearby accommodations. The leading Chef had to stay away from his family for 14 days. “I concentrated on improving my health and fitness. I came out of my quarantine after the next two results came negative.” Sheertharam’s team who he was working closely with, luckily, tested negative. Even during this quarantine, Sheetharam was managing his team remotely and ensured the front-line workers are fed on time.
However, his health conditions did not stop him from serving this nation at tough times. He ensured that doctors who support during the pandemic should eat well. “I read the palates of doctors who stayed with us and balance my menu accordingly,” he said. The menu comprises an equal amount of proteins and carbohydrates, and 30% of minerals. These would include greens, eggs, non-vegetarian, peas, and others. These foods were freshly prepared and most importantly tasty, he adds. “I gave them the choice of food as I want them to enjoy their meal,” Sheertharam adds. It provided the doctors housed with juice and snacks in addition to three meals a day. “Till now, we have got no negative feedback from them. I make sure they have the best in quality and quantity.”
“The warriors should be able to eat tasty and hygienic food at the end of their tough day,” Sheertharam said. For the corporation workers and doctors outside, they provided them with wholesome food like Bisi bele bath, Curd rice and others, as we had to challenges buying packaging materials. For the first month, they faced shortages with packaging materials. Later, they contacted their regular suppliers, went to their warehouse to collect the materials.
“We have never compromised on anything. In fact, we took an additional precaution towards the food we prepare, for those front live workers who were with us and our staff,” said Sheetharam. “We have the most enthusiastic staffs who were delighted to even work for even 24 hours straight. Most importantly, we have supportive management who encouraged us towards this service we could provide.”, he feels.
The hotel which accommodated the front-line workers got certified for COVID standards and also appointed four COVID champions, who are designated to monitor the temperature of staff and others with them. It has also created a COVID desk where those with discomfort can reach out to. They had also identified accommodation outside the hotel as a quarantine facility. “We focused on social distancing from the first day. We also acquainted ourselves with the new normal.” It split the staff into teams of pre-cooking, production, and distribution. They worked in different places as a result of social distancing.
Sheetharam says his memorable experience was feeling scared when he walked into a government hospital to distribute food. For the first month, the staff from the hotel were delivering the food. Week one, it went well, but when week two came, the staff members were scared for their safety. The safety kits were too costly then. Sheetharam took it upon himself to deliver the food. Obtaining the e-pass, he traveled across the silent city to handover the food. The chef while entering the hospital, felt scared over the new normal, the checking of the temperature of the food, the extra care, and more.
There are many chefs even today, working in the toughest conditions for the welfare of those who work for the COVID-affected persons.