New York -- the worst hit US state by the coronavirus outbreak – still has nearly a quarter of the country’s cases and 30% of COVID-19 deaths. But amid the pandemic chaos, Chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park is bringing smiles to the faces of poor New Yorkers by feeding them through the Michelin three-starred restaurant he has turned into a charity kitchen.
His Manhattan eatery, which was named World's Best Restaurant in 2017 by the World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy, is preparing 3,000 meals a day for frontline workers and underprivileged New Yorkers, most of them distributed at a Harlem church.
New York has so far reported over 28,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and 358, 154 positive cases. Overall, over 96,000 people have died in the US, with 1,601,434 infections.
"I had a person the other day who said, 'Oh my God, this is the best meal I've ever had,'" said Humm, standing inside his darkened, empty restaurant, which was shuttered in mid-March by the coronavirus pandemic.
Working alongside New York City-based non-profit Rethink Food, which transforms restaurant leftovers into dishes for the disadvantaged, Humm and his staff have churned out some of the 90,000 meals being served each week to the needy during the pandemic.
"When this crisis started happening and we had to turn off the lights for a minute, we were a little bit in shock like everyone was," Humm was quoted as saying by Reuters.
"But then pretty quickly, we felt like we wanted to help in any way we can."
In the eatery’s kitchen, meals are prepared for distribution at churches, soup kitchens, community centres and housing projects.
Humm transformed the kitchen into a commissary using private donations, and $250,000 donated by American Express, all of which went through Rethink Food.
Even after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions get lifted and some normalcy is restored, Humm says he will continue cooking not just for the 1% but for those facing extreme poverty as well.
"Food is magical, it's so powerful... I mean, there are very few things in the world that touch everyone," he said.