Since its founding back in 1981, Citymeals on Wheels has delivered more than 63 million nutritious meals to the New York seniors across all five boroughs. A critical resource during the best of times, the organization has become an absolute lifeline for the homebound elderly throughout the pandemic - delivering both food and companionship.
One in ten city seniors were food insecure prior to COVID, with one in seven seniors living in poverty. Sadly, those figures have only and will only increase. Thankfully, over 8,000 volunteers have given more than 30,000 hours of support to Citymeals since the start of the pandemic. Surely everyone knows at least one of those selfless volunteers - famed Restaurateur and celebrated Chef, Daniel Boulud.
Since the beginning of last spring, Boulud and his staff have been hard at work in his commissary kitchen in SoHo preparing upwards of 4,000 meals per week for vulnerable older New Yorkers. As one would imagine, the daily changing menu is a beyond delicious culinary experience.
We caught up with the busy humanitarian to learn more about his work making meals, his virtual cooking classes for charity, the one dish every at-home cook should master, and how New Yorkers can best help struggling restaurants.
How has your perspective changed since the pandemic?
A lot has changed - especially when you have to furlough 95% of your staff. As we slowly go back into operations, it is difficult to recreate where we left off, particularly with having only outdoor dining. While it is important to restart a business, it is equally important to support the community. Our focus has been on Citymeals on Wheels and Food1st Foundation.
What was your journey like towards giving back to the community in this way?
Through the initiative of Food1st Foundation, it has been a very humbling and rewarding journey. Together, we have gifted over 500,000 meals, 40% of which have been given to Citymeals on Wheels to deliver to homebound elderly New Yorkers. Last spring, we were very fortunate to host the annual Sunday Supper gala at DANIEL, in support of Citymeals on Wheels, just before being mandated to shut down our restaurant due to the pandemic. That raised over $1 million to provide meals to homebound elderly New Yorkers.
What would be a great help to you in your work to feed struggling New Yorkers?
A great help would be for big companies and individuals to make donations toward making meals, either directly to Citymeals on Wheels or Food1st Foundation. This way, chefs and restaurants can continue to produce meals for food-insecure New Yorkers.
What do you personally take away from this amazing partnership?
I am just a link in the chain of producing, volunteering and supporting. Everyone should have a role to play in helping nourish those in need.
What's one thing New Yorkers should know about helping the restaurant industry to
Order out from restaurants! Let restaurants cook for you.
How did the idea for your virtual cooking classes come about?
During the pandemic I hosted many cooking classes for sponsors and corporations with the purpose of raising money for charities, be it Hand in Hand, my employee fund, Citymeals on Wheels, or Food1st Foundation. Post holidays, there is now a little breathing space to offer these classes to the general public.
What's one dish every at-home cook should master?
The perfect omelette. Plump, runny, tasty and cheesy.
What's the one dish you make for yourself the most?
Soups! I am known amongst my staff to go around all of the stations in the kitchen at DANIEL with a pot. I handpick from a variety of proteins, grains, and vegetables, top it off with delicious stock and I come up with my very own “soup du jour.”
What are you most excited for next?
I am very excited about the opening of my upcoming restaurant LE PAVILLON by Daniel Boulud at One Vanderbilt in New York City. It helps me envision and push forward toward post-COVID days. Also, continuing to raise the bar at DANIEL and reopen all my restaurants once again is something I look forward to.
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Daniel Boulud (@danielboulud)