CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Film director and soldiers join front line of food aid relief

Punjab restaurant has made 100,000 free meals for those in need during crisis

04 December, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Gurinder Chadha gets stuck in to help make meals for those in need

THE army stepped in to help cook up a delicious batch of 2,000 curries for the New Journal to deliver to families in need across Camden.

Members of the Household Cavalry Mounted regiment came to the Punjab restaurant in Neal Street, Covent Garden, to join the food relief effort. The family-run business was established in 1946 and is London’s oldest of its kind.

Owner Amrit Maan’s family have made 100,000 meals for charities since March.

They have been distributed twice a week by the New Journal aid van project to individuals, families and food hubs based in community centres at Castlehaven, Highgate Newtown and Queen’s Crescent.

Film director Gurinder Chadha and her family help at Punjab

Lieutenant Colonel Harriet Cairns and Major Fiona Andrew were on duty in the kitchen, making a traditional village curry, while their colleagues sliced hundreds of onions and peeled potatoes.

They were joined in the effort by film director Gurinder Chadha, of Bend It Like Beckham fame, who arrived with her children Ronak and Kumiko to make classic dishes Aloo Ghobi and Kheer.

Ms Chadha, who lives in Camden Town, said: “I was amazed at how many foodbanks they are supporting. I don’t think people realise how hard it is for so many families. “There are kids going to bed at night hungry in Camden. – that has really upset me.”

Ms Chadha said the Maan family were putting into practice a key tenet of their Sikh faith, known as Sarbat da Bhalla, which translates as “for the good of the community”.

She added: “They are taking the idea of always being open to anybody who needs food, which you find in Sikh temples, on to the streets.”

Members of the Household Cavalry Mounted regiment helped out

Mr Maan has also been supporting the homeless charity Under One Sky with food throughout the coronavirus crisis. Ms Chadha added: “The idea is to go wherever you see hardship and provide food – and that is what Amrit and his restaurant are doing. There is a great sense of community spirit in Camden. If anyone is in need, they know they can get in touch with the New Journal, and Amrit is ready to make food available.”

Mr Maan and his staff moved into the restaurant in March to create a safe bubble so they could work, while the rooms that would usually be packed with satisfied diners were turned into a base for Under One Sky.

Gurinder Chadha directed hit movie Bend It Like Beckham

The restaurant owner’s grandfather, Sardar Gurbachan Singh Maan, has been cooking Punjabi food from their Neal Street base since 1951. It has faced the same issues as others in the hospitality industry – and so Mr Maan turned his business into a community resource, until they can get back to serving customers again.

He said: “It’s somewhat ironic that my great-grandfather lost his siblings to the flu pandemic in the Punjab before he came to the UK and set up this restaurant with some very strong community values. In its nearly 75-year history, the Punjab Covent Garden has faced nothing like this, but we’ve never closed our kitchens and I was determined to keep them open and use the resources we have to help whoever needs it.

“I’m blessed to have a great team around me. I’m thankful to everybody that took time out and helped us cook and raise awareness of the growing need – my team got a little break too.”

The Punjab staff have set up an online Go Fund Me page to help meet the cost of buying containers and ingredients.

Mr Maan added: “A £2.40 contribution can help feed a family of four, so we are asking for a little help in raising money for basic ingredients and to be able to keep feeding those in need through the festive period into the new year.”

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