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Detroit chefs feed people in shelters during coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

Award-winning chefs continue cooking at Horatio Williams Foundation kitchen

DETROIT – Their restaurants might be closed, but several well-known Detroit chefs are coming together to make sure residents don’t go hungry during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Restaurants and chefs are struggling because of the pandemic, but some are still putting their talents to good use.

Chef Maxcel Hardy’s restaurant, COOP Caribbean Fusion, is closed because of COVID-19, but he’s still cooking in the Horatio Williams Foundation kitchen.

“The moment we found out that there was a dine-in service who was going to be cut, we went to work asking questions,” Hardy said. “How can we help? How can we do what we do?”

A few weeks ago, Hardy and a handful of award-winning chefs from the Detroit area partnered up to make meals to feed families living in shelters. They’re all cooking together in the Horatio Williams Foundation kitchen just outside Eastern Market in the Lafayette Park community.

“We’re just trying to do what we can to make sure that we take care of most vulnerable folks here in Detroit, that being our homeless population," Hardy said.

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Culinary students are volunteering to help the chefs prepare meals, and together they’re feeding nearly 400 people every day, Monday through Friday. That has added up to nearly 9,000 meals so far, and they said they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“It goes to who we are as Detroiters, because we know if nobody else will do it and look out for us, we look out for ourselves," Hardy said.

To feed that many people, the chefs have had to get creative. They turned to nearby distributors, restaurants and warehouses to collect food some were planning to throw away and recover it before it went to waste.

“If you’re malnourished and you’re not eating right, you’re not going to have a fighting chance against COVID-19,” Hardy said. "There’s so many other things that you need to fight against this, as well as the medical treatment. But if you already come into the system already bent and broken, especially because you’re not eating well.”

They also started to take food donations from across Michigan. A volunteer from Cherry Capital Foods drove from Traverse City to Downtown Detroit to drop off a truckload of frozen turkey.

“This is food that is absolutely going to the right place at the right time when we need it the most, dealing with this pandemic,” Hardy said.

When people realized Detroiters in shelters needed more help, donations started trickling in slowly. Urban Farms offered green tomatoes and ears of corn.

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“We turn those into fresh salads, fresh meals that are going to be in shelters, and so this kind of food is medicine that really works, you know, to help people," Hardy said. “I think it is the will and in the spirit of coming together as a community and recognizing that this crosses every -- whether it’s socio economic, race, color, religion, coronavirus doesn’t really care what you are, and I think that’s how we have to pay attention to how we can help each other.”

If you want to help the chefs, call 313-605-3600.


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