Updated: Thursday, 23 January 2014 23:47 | By Agence France-Presse

Top chefs bring ready meals to NYC elderly

Shivering in Arctic temperatures and reeling from a brutal winter snowstorm, elderly New Yorkers got the surprise of their lives when five top chefs suddenly appeared with meals on wheels.


Top chefs bring ready meals to NYC elderly

Chefs Daniel Boulud (C) and Charlie Palmer (L) deliver a meal cooked at one of their restaurant to Toby, 80, as part of Citymeals-on-Wheels, a non-profit organization which provides food and care to New York City's homebound elderly, January 22, 2014 - by Emmanuel Dunand

Whipped up in the kitchens of some of the world's finest chefs in some of Manhattan's most expensive restaurants, once a month older people can dine at home as if at an award-winning table.

The launch menu was a mouth-watering embarrassment of riches: lamb navarin with chard marmalade, poussin korma with red rice, beef bourguignon with turnips or Caesar salad and cheese cake.

And the first delivery by the chefs themselves -- some kitted out in their kitchen whites -- couldn't come at a better time.

After Winter Storm Janus dumped 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow on America's biggest city Tuesday, New York hunkered down in temperatures hovering around 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius).

Community centers for the elderly have closed and sidewalks have been reduced to a perilous mix of mucky brown slush and ice.

The idea came from two chefs involved for years in the Citymeals-on-Wheels organization that harnesses an army of volunteers to deliver meals to 18,000 elderly people each day.

Among them no less is star French chef Daniel Boulud, who owns a string of restaurants and whose eponymous Daniel on the Upper East Side has the ultimate accolade of three Michelin stars.

"We do this once a month with four or five chefs and about 500 servings," said Boulud, co-president of Citymeals.

Around 20 chefs have agreed to take part in the new initiative.

"We try to make good, well thought-out dishes in our kitchens. It's just to bring a bit of happiness," Boulud told AFP.

First beef bourguignon in 80 years

Charlie Palmer, who owns progressive American restaurant Aureole in Bryant Park, said a key aspect was to introduce a new generation of top chefs to the project.

The elderly residents at the Westbeth Artists Housing complex on Bethune Street in Greenwich Village were delighted.

"I was told yesterday nobody would come today," said Toby Dennison, an 80-year-old former dancer, apologizing for her slightly crumpled attire.

"It is so wonderful of you all to come and what a marvellous idea. I never had boeuf bourguignon in my life."

But she was also more than happy to have the lamb navarin or the poussin, accepting all the dishes offered with a wide smile.

A few stories down, 78-year-old painter Wilda received the chefs in her bed next to an electric heater.

Her apartment was crammed with canvases. She spoke at length, never seeming short of words, about coming from Texas and living in California.

Wilda showed off the cards she still paints, promising to send them to visitors.

Citymeals, which has 33 centers in New York, delivers two million meals a year to 18,000 old people who can no longer shop or cook for themselves, with the help of private donors.

According to director Beth Shapiro, the need never stops rising as the number of elderly increases in New York.

"We have to take care of the homebound elderly," said Palmer.

"The only contact they have in the day, sometimes, is the meal delivered to them. They are not going out today. If they are not delivered something, they might not even eat something."

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