DETROIT – For 50 years, Chef Phil Jones has cooked in high-end restaurants and fed those in need.
The coronavirus pandemic changed his world in ways he couldn’t imagine.
“This is the exact anniversary of the day that my whole world dropped out,” Jones said.
In March 2020, on Friday the 13th, COVID took away Jones’ catering business and cooking classes.
“I lost a years worth of income overnight and I was in a panic,” Jones said. “I needed to do something.”
Despite his own hardship, Jones focused on those who couldn’t put food on the table. In the early days of the stay-at-home orders, restaurants had tons of food, but no guests to serve.
“They have thousands of pounds of produce to try and get out to the community,” Jones recalled. “A friend of mine called me and he had a free sandwich trucks’ worth of chicken cooked, ready to go.”
So Jones partnered with the nonprofit Food Rescue US and began distributing thousands of pounds of chicken.
“All these wonderful people coming out to TCF to load trucks and cars and vans and trailers,” Jones recalled. “And these people that lined up to feed their communities.”
Food was dropped off across Metro Detroit -- at churches, shelters and even animal rescues.
“If I see someone happy, it makes me happy as opposed to someone in despair,” Jones said. “So, you know, just to be selfish I want to help folks because I want a better day for myself.”
Jones has worked in elite restaurants, with celebrity chefs and in community kitchens. His desire to give back during a pandemic led to the Detroit Free Press to name him 2021 Chef of the Year.
“I’m humbled,” Jones said. “I want for our young folks to understand the nobility of being a chef being a cook, providing nutrients to our community and helping people grow is a wonderful thing to do, and it’s a great place to be as a human being.”
Jones’ latest venture is a healthy meal distribution company called Farmacy Food. He’s hoping vending machines that offer affordable fresh food can compete with fast food. More information can be found on the official website here.