A Chicago chef is using the healing power of food to make an impact on his local foodservice and healthcare communities. After Chicago’s initial two-week shutdown, Chef Jereme McGovern wanted to do something to help local foodservice workers who needed extra help. He set a goal of obtaining enough food to make 100 portions each day of the shutdown.
“I may not have millions of dollars to donate or any of that, but I have the ability to cook and I know in times like this, food is nurturing. It warms the soul,” said McGovern. “I put my cooking abilities and my know-how to talk to people and gather resources and that’s how it all started, as a way to provide means for our industry to eat. Now, it’s slowly catapulted to something much, much more.”
With 16 years of culinary experience and training with the Culinary Institute of America, McGovern most recently worked as a private restaurant consultant for steakhouses in Chicago. When he first started his coronavirus response operation, he cooked all the meals himself inside his home kitchen. Now, thanks to his connections within the community, his operation was granted tax exempt status and the Chicago Park District is allowing him to use one of their commercial kitchens. Both are major developments that helped legitimize his operation and increase donations.
“Originally, it was just me cooking and now that I’ve moved into a kitchen, I’ve gathered a few of my fellow industry friends and chefs. I’m looking to prepare up to 400 meals a day. I have a team behind me now, of like four other cooks, so this way I’m still able to meet with vendors and gather from my side of it so that the supply is steady without any interruptions with anything else,” said McGovern.
In addition to the now 200 meals McGovern and his team will prepare for foodservice industry workers, they’ve also taken on providing 200 lunches for the nurses at Weiss Memorial Hospital.
“There’s many levels of the evolution of this program and it boggles me a little bit how it started and where it’s going,” said McGovern.
Cambro was happy to donate products to support McGovern’s cause when it first began.
“We carry a lot of our cold goods in [Cam GoBags]. When we prep in the kitchen, we’ll make our salads and stuff and store them in there. We use [the Cam GoBox] for all our hot meals,” said McGovern. “It works well, and it’s definitely helping us keep our hot food hot and our cold food cold. It’s been a lot of help.”
McGovern plans to continue providing meals until restaurants are back to business as usual. He is happy to be able to help his community by doing what he does best: cooking.
“I may not be being paid in monetary value, but I end up being paid in just the gratitude and the ability to be able to…in a sense, I’m still doing what I like at the end of the day, I’m cooking, I’m still playing around with food and doing that. At the core of what I’m doing is not really work,” said McGovern.
If you’re a foodservice worker in the Chicago area and need a meal, text 773-908-2908 for more information.