By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter
Chefs at a top hotel are using their skills to create meals for pensioners and poor families during the coronavirus lockdown.
Cooks at the five-star Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, which closed its doors to guests more than a month ago, are making more than 1,500 meals a week for Westminster residents.
An army of volunteers is delivering the food to people in sheltered accommodation or those on low incomes.
More than 2,500 have already signed up to help Westminster council support residents during the crisis.
Along with delivering meals, volunteers are also delivering 800 grocery shops to help people who are unable to go shopping because they are isolating.
They have already made 300 deliveries and volunteers have pre-paid cards to buy the groceries.
Newly-elected council leader Rachael Robathan, who helped serve up some of the first meals on Thursday, said: “The legacy that’s come out of the community support – it’s just been fantastic. People are wanting to give their help to everyone else.”
Led by head chef Jude Rozario, the hotel divided its chefs and kitchen staff into teams so if they have to self-isolate the other teams can carry on.
The hotel’s general manager, Knut Wylde, said staff were keen to turn their skills to help their neighbours, adding: “We are honoured to help support our local community at this very difficult time, and we are particularly proud of so many of our team at The Berkeley who have volunteered to step up and help. We are all in this together.”
Some staff are also staying at the hotel to help and offering complimentary hot food and tea and coffee at a special drive-through for emergency services staff.
They are giving out drinks to the front line staff from 10am to 4pm, with hot food on offer on a first-come first-served basis from noon.
Ms Robathan added: “It is amazing to see the staff of a five-star hotel kitchen turn their hand to producing hundreds of meals for residents in our sheltered accommodation.
“And hats off to the Berkeley for launching their free meals drive-through for emergency services workers. It is this kind of generous and innovative offer which is helping us to pull through the ordeal of coronavirus as a community.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.