These are trying times there is no denying. All every person wants is to keep breathing every single day. As India continues to battle the COVID variants, every citizen is doing their best to save another, they are doing the best they can to keep one another afloat and as disheartening as it is to see people struggle, it beautiful knowing how far unity could take us forward. These four home cooks and entrepreneurs who are extremely passionate about food are today equally passionate about providing reasonably priced healthy meals to those in need of good food today.
Neeta Jessani, Monkey Temptation
A designer and cook by profession, Neeta’s love for food and design go hand-in-hand she believes. But her ultimate goal was to feed as many people as she could. This Pandemic has opened up that chance for her and she does it wholeheartedly today. “A chef I look up to started this initiative on a google sheet (Pan India) initially and I instantly signed up. Feeding people has always given me immense joy. I started cooking young out of Passion and in the current scenario when I saw it could actually help people heal faster, there was no holding back. For the past year I’ve also started making desserts as a Home chef I enjoy both Design and cooking equally. I believe a little kindness goes a long way and no act is small. Also one should never limit how much they give. I am also running a bake sale on my page wherein 100% proceeds from a batch of the Chocolate Souffle jars I make would go to HemkuntFoundation. Along with an Eid offer wherein all profits from orders until Eid will be donated to Hemkunt Foundation again,” she says.
Neeta has actively been making meal packs for those affected by COVID or those in need of these nutritious meals. “We receive about 75-100 calls every day and it’s overwhelming to say the least. There are families who actually need help and it’s a privilege to be on the other side healthy and safe. I urge more people to join in, it doesn’t matter if you can cook just one meal extra every day, and if 20 people start doing that 20 more families would be fed good quality, home cooked food, “says Neeta further adding, “The main idea is giving people healthy, comfort food through these testing times as they are restricted to their spaces and also don’t have the strength to cook for themselves or their family. We want to give them that feeling of a hot khichdi bowl our mothers give us when we’re unwell so they can recover faster and also feel a little less lonely.”
Ingredients are properly inspected and only the best meal packs are provided by her. “The quality of ingredients used is very important when serving patients along with the right usage of oil and spices, they are kept at bare minimum. Also we make sure to cook in a clean, sanitised environment. The delivery happens through third party delivery partners aka heroes like Dunzo and Swiggy,” she concludes signing off.
@monkeytemptation – You can contact Neeta for meals on 9952946032
Sharada Murthy, sharustories
Engineer by Education and Marketer by chance, Sharada is a true-blue Madras girl who loves beaches as much as food. Her passion for food is what drove her to help those in need. With a full-time job in hand, Sharada manages to juggle both these huge tasks with a smile. “What started as an effort to collate the list of caterers around the city soon turned into wanting to server meals to Covid positive people in my area. We (@archkc, @meerathenmozhi, @harshnisreedhar & @theidlytales) decided to all came together to collectively distribute food in our locality. Three days in and with 20 more volunteers later we were already covering almost all of Chennai city,” says an elated Sharada.
Catering to patients is no easy task and Sharada is doing the best she can. “I did not even imagine it would scale up to where we are today. 10 days in, we are now a team of 50+ volunteers. We started at 25 meals a day and now we are close to 200 meals a day (All this while most of us hold a full-time job.),” she says. The team is in fact very specific about every single customer’s food preference no matter how long the list is. “Make note of allergies, food rejections, and dietary restrictions.
Cleanliness while preparing and packing. Less salt, less spice, less sugar, and healthy nutritious freshly cooked balanced meal. The secret ingredient would be hope, love, and care to keep them going. We make use of pick-up and drop services available in the city. We also inform the delivery executives to double-mask themselves and that the receiver is COVIDpositive. This ensures they are also cautious and drop the delivery off at their doorstep,” adds Sharada.
Finally, she concludes by saying, “I have had the gratifying experience of serving people who are desperately in need of a decent meal that will keep them going. The ultimate joy is when they call to tell you that the Rasam was amazing or send you little love notes on WhatsApp talking about how the food was just like how their mother makes them.”
Contact @sharustories for your exclusive meal plans.
Residing in Australia, Kanya wanted to return home to be with her family during these tough times. “I had ever since been looking at how people have been bringing together home cooks and caterers to supply to those in need which I thought was a wonderful initiative. That is when a friend of mine wanted me to help with her father who never ate during the full lockdown. I wanted to cook something for him and take it to him. This was very upsetting to see people struggling without basic needs like food. That is when I decided to help other people as well. I did my research, gathered a couple of my friends and we decided to cater to a larger audience – this way we help more people and give more to the society,” says Kanya about the initiative.
It started off as ten orders a day for Kanya and today she serves upto 53 people. “I have been trying to allocate and space out over 50 orders for lunch and around 15 orders for dinner. It was initially overwhelming but so satisfied and content with myself that I am of service to all the COVID positive patients and the elderly,” she adds. Irrespective of the health conditions, Kanya believes that it is always best to offer food that is lower on the salt, spice and the oil.
“I avoid water vegetables and add in more green vegetables for the patients to give them a more fibrous diet. I also ensure to add a lot of protein like Sundal to the meal pack. For dinner, it’s either Upma, Khichdi or predominantly Idli as they are easily digestible. I add no preservatives to my food. Meanwhile, delivery is the usual through Swiggy, Dunzo, WeFast among others. I make sure my delivery partners follow all the necessary protocols,” says Kanya.
“Providing a happy and healthy meal will be of immense help to so many. There is nothing happier than filling people’s heart and stomach with food and smile. First this, then comes the rest,” concludes Kanya signing off.
Contact Kanya for your meal preparations @kanyaa_rajesh or 9790914485
Manisha Kumbhat, the Food Saga
Manisha started out as a bespoke caterer in Chennai from the 1990s. What started out as a business catering to family and friends spread all across Chennai too. She specialises in global cuisine and all her food is plant-based. But the astonishing part is that she manages and cooks the orders as a single person. “During the first wave of covid, I was helping known friends and family who were unwell by dropping off simple meals. With the onset of the second wave, the number of calls requesting for daily meals crept up. It was very evident the new strain with increased virulence is affecting entire families which was not the case in the first wave leaving no one available to take care of the required nutrition for the recovery. It prompted me to carve out different options for the people to choose from,” says Manisha.
Today her everyday orders keep her busy and she begins her day at 4 AM. “It is hectic. The incessant phone calls and messages are truly heart breaking especially if they are in a location which is not serviceable from our home via delivery (Chetpet),” adds Manisha.
She follows a simple note to provide the patients a healthy meal – Simple, healthy and satisfying. “Delivery is quite hectic. At this point the regular delivery apps are constantly changing their rules with lockdown restrictions changing every 10-14 days. The main concern is making sure the food reaches on time despite rush hour,” she quotes.
Finally, Manisha concluded saying, “Peace of mind that they will get homemade food that is satisfying, made hygienically and fresh. The meal would also provide a source/sense of comfort much required for anyone going through the healing journey during COVID.”
Contact Manisha for your meal preps through @thefoodsaga or 9566099998