Pinoy chefs prepare meals for NHS staff

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the UK, London-based Filipino chefs are showing their support to hardworking NHS staff by serving them delicious Filipino meals. 

The initiative, #FilipinoFoodforNHS, led by Maria Garbutt-Lucero, aims to bring comfort and a taste of home to front line workers during these challenging times.

There is a sizeable Filipino community living in the UK, with the latest (2011) UK census revealing that there are some 200,000 Filipinos in the UK, of which 22,043 work for the NHS. After Britons and Indians, Filipinos are the third largest group working for the UK’s public healthcare system.

A simple request turned into an inspiring initiative

In her blog post, Maria recalls how a Filipino nurse inspired various Filipino food groups and chefs in the UK to show their gratitude to NHS staff though the joy of food, particularly to Filipino workers who haven’t been in the UK very long.

She wrote: “In March, a Filipino nurse contacted  Kanlungan Filipino Consortium (a Filipino charity) asking if they knew anyone who could provide Filipino food for a group of 30 NHS workers who were feeling homesick, having just arrived in London shortly before the Covid travel ban.”

Maria took the lead, forming a team to respond to the request. She set up a Go Fund Me page to cover supplies and expenses which had raised nearly £5,000 from 216 donors (at the time of writing).

More than 2000 meals have so far been served to NHS staff

The ‘dream team’, which consists of Filipino supper club The Adobros, author and cook Mae Williams (Food with Mae), LUTO, SARAPFilliFaltRoni B’s Kitchen in Surrey, and chefs Rachel Stockley and Mama Z in Manchester, has served more than 2,000 meals to NHS staff. But they don’t want it to end there and have plans to deliver more meals.

These meals have included the Filipino favourties of adobo (chicken or pork belly cooked in soy sauce and vinegar),  pancit sotanghon (stir fry noodles), menudo (pork stew in tomato sauce), laing (spinach in coconut milk), tortang talong (smoky aubergine frittata) and chicken inasal (grilled chicken). The Filipino dessert, cassava cake, is also being served with the meals.

Maria prepares chicken adobo meals for NHS Staff (Photo from Baboy Club’s Instagram)

Generating a sense of community

From people donating to the fundraiser to volunteers delivering meals, the spirit of togetherness or “bayanihan” is alive and well even outside the Philippines, according to a Filipino posting online.

Filipino healthcare staff get a taste of home (Photo from Kanlungan Filipino Consortium’s Instagram

A number of businesses, including Vauxhall-based butcher P.J. Frankland & Sons and Camberwell-based studio and kitchen Blanch & Shock, have given their support by donating produce and encouraging chefs to use their kitchens to prepare and cook meals. Kanlungan Filipino Consortium members are also volunteering to deliver meals to hospitals.
 NHS staff at selected hospitals in London and Surrey have enjoyed the comfort of Filipino food. One of them, Rose Perez, a 25-year old Filipino nurse working at Whipps Cross Hospital in London posted this picture on Instagram (below).   Rose thanked the volunteers for the tasty meals and said how proud she was to share them with her non-Filipino colleagues.

Rose Perez enjoying home cooked Filipino meals with her colleagues at Whipps Cross Hospital, London

Alma Makiling, another Filipino working for the NHS, shared how the initiative has touched her heart, commenting on the Go Fund Me page: “I’m a Filipino working in the NHS too and little things like this warm my heart – knowing my fellow Filipinos are spreading kindness and supporting each other during this very difficult time.”

Filipino food is beginning to take off in the UK

Perhaps not as well known in the UK as other cuisines, Filipino food is expected to take the limelight, as Filipino chefs are making extra efforts to introduce and keep up with current food trends in the region (assume this means the UK?). One of them is Manchester-based chef Zosima Fulwell who is striving to create scrumptious veggie and vegan Filipino dishes.

(Read Mama Z article here – link to Mama Z piece)

Pop-ups and restaurants serving authentic Filipino food are now appearing and being featured by mainstream media. Post-lockdown, Filipino chefs and food businesses are hopeful and looking forward to sharing what Filipino food is all about.

Support the initiative by donating here.