"Everyone just seems to want to work together and help out where they can. It is amazing. Im just seeing the absolute best of everybody."
In these uncertain and challenging times, Women In the Food Industry have been inspired by women who have been motivated to use their skills and energy to help others. Co-founder Janie Ash spoke to chef Mary-Ellen McTague for her story of how she is responding to Coronavirus and helping frontline staff and vulnerable people in Manchester.
Mary-Ellen's restaurant The Creameries closed a few days before lockdown was announced. Mary-Ellen explained "My sister is a doctor, so because of her, I kind of had an idea that the lockdown was coming. We made the decision on the Saturday before it was announced that we were going to close and we decided at that point we were going to start cooking for the NHS staff and various other groups."
Although she did not have her usual team or restaurant around, she explained how with the support of others she is able to co-ordinate helping others:
"I am working with new people: loads of other chefs and restaurateurs around Manchester and the North West who have joined forces started by taking waste food from restaurants having to close. That was the first food we cooked with.
I’m coordinating meals for NHS staff, food banks and cooking meals for parents staying at the children’s hospital. We’re doing lots of different things and it’s all growing by the week, but essentially, we’re cooking food for people who either need it or would really appreciate it.
Since then we’ve been getting more and more donations. For example, we received a ton of meat from Aubrey Allen . We’re also getting support from Cloudwater Brewery who have allowed us to massively expand the operation by storing and delivering the food and they are also buying some food for us.
We’ve got a couple of vans and we’ve got individuals making deliveries as well and we have a safe protocol system when we deliver to the wards."
Mary-Ellen explained how by working with charities and volunteers and emergency response team has been put together: "We are working closely with a number of homeless charities in Manchester and Manchester City Council have come together to provide an emergency food response team. Together we are trying to help support their services by providing additional meals. We share resources a bit as well, so if one of us gets access to a load of takeaway containers we’ll share it out a bit or if anyone has an excess of food we’ll ask around the groups to see if anyone wants it. Equally if anyone is short of food we send an email round asking for ingredients.
I am cooking from my restaurant, The Creameries. I’ve got Rich Sharples, Exec Chef at Elite Bistros, Rich Carver and The Honest Crust Team, Sam from Where the Light Gets In, Anna Sogaard from Erst, Rachel Stockley from Baratxuri, Ross Parker from Beehive foods and many others.
We’ve had donations from various suppliers but they are having a tough time too. But what’s seems to have happened is everyone who has been affected has immediately started to turn their thoughts to how they can help. There is a network of wonderful events companies in the North West where their entire calendar for the year has been cancelled, so they’re working together to support us. They’ve given us a load of freezers which were delivered to us in an ambulance. Everyone just seems to want to work together and help out where they can. It’s amazing. I’m just seeing the absolute best of everybody.
You can read the full feature on Mary-Ellen McTague helping to feed NHS staff & vulnerable people in Manchester on Women In the Food Industry's site.