“Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
where knowledge is free.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever-widening thought and action.
In to that heaven of freedom, my father, LET MY COUNTRY AWAKE!”― Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
“I left some 20 kgs of chicken for marination last evening,” said chef Umesh, and he has already done that thrice this week. He’s been busier in COVID times than ever before. His whole team has been working hard tirelessly and he lights up each time he talks about how the bond between him and his team members at the Ladies Golf Club in Toronto, Canada has strengthened over time.
Umesh comes from the heart of India and it’s capital Delhi; just like our hero Rama from the Indian epic Ramayana, who took birth on planet earth to save us from evil. Umesh has always stood by his family, friends and his community. He is a person who lives his life by the principle that the community only prospers when everyone works as a team. If you could see chef Umesh in daily life, he would seem like any other person around you but when faced with dire circumstances like Corona, heroes like him begin to shine.
It was a chilly morning of March 20th when Umesh woke up to a call from his club that the government had announced a lockdown. It was all over the news and to him, it felt like bumping into a wall with nowhere else to go. As the reality of it all struck him, he wondered with the club closed what would happen to the new sous chef he had just hired, the stock available in his kitchens, his finances and the uncertainty of it all. He further thought that even if it continued for a month, the management would have no choice but to lay off people as the operations have come to a standstill.
After a week he finally decided to step out to buy groceries for his house. A long queue in front of the store awaited him, the whole process took around 2 hrs and he could not stop thinking about the elderly guests he met every day at his club. On the way back he called his Clubhouse Manager and told him he had an idea. Romualdo was immediately on board with Umesh’s idea and the very next day they started online cooking classes from the club kitchen for members. The response was overwhelming and it not only attracted his club guests, but people from other countries joined in on his Instagram handle to see him cook simple and nutritious recipes. However, what Umesh did next was nothing less than a miracle for many.
Umesh and Romouldo started calling their suppliers, telling them about their idea to supply customized grocery bags for their club members. Out of work due to lockdown, they joined hands in this drive and even offered to deliver grocery bags to homes of the elderly guests who could not come to the club. What just started as an idea ended becoming a daily 12hr shift, 65 hrs a week with no leaves, the kitchen was busier than usual as they were packing 250 portions each day with the best quality ingredients at no extra cost. To everyone’s surprise, they got more than they had expected – frozen dishes, curries, fresh meat, egg, butter, flour, choice of bread, in house rich and delicious maple syrup and much more.
Above all when the members came to pick up their groceries Chef Umesh, along with his team, dished out takeaways like wraps, sandwiches, lasagna, all of it freshly cooked and packed with utmost care. Most guests would park their car at the kitchen door and the team including Umesh would put the bags in the car boot, making possible a contactless delivery.
Inspiration is all around us and sometimes it’s within, just like Umesh people around you have risen up to the occasion, thought out of the box and worked harder than before. With deep gratitude I thank them all for proving yet again that this too shall pass. Hope to see everyone on the other side of COVID pandemic.
The weather is now changing, and everyone is better prepared to take small and cautious steps to bring life back to normal. The club is now fully operational and the whole team is proud of the fact that they stuck together and saved jobs, helped suppliers move stock and served their guests when they needed each other the most. To commemorate the hard work and success they organised an India Food Week and served Chef Umesh’s and everyone’s favourite dish ‘Butter Chicken’ to welcome all their members back to the club.