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‘It’s nice to be in the kitchen’ - Top Norfolk chefs team up to cook free meals for NHS staff

PUBLISHED: 15:54 28 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:31 29 May 2020

Ben Handley, chef patron of the Duck Inn has been preparing meals for NHS workers during lockdown  Picture: Chris Bishop

Ben Handley, chef patron of the Duck Inn has been preparing meals for NHS workers during lockdown Picture: Chris Bishop

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Frontline NHS workers at a Norfolk hospital won’t be going hungry today.

Tthe Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, during coronavirus lockdown  Picture: Chris BishopTthe Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, during coronavirus lockdown Picture: Chris Bishop

Two gastro pubs and a bistro have teamed up to cook ready meals for emergency workers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

Ben Handley, chef patron at the Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, was at the controls of the range on Thursday.

“We’ve got pasta arrabbiata with goat’s cheese or chicken with chorizo, broccoli, carrots and new potatoes,” he said. “It’s for the ambulance staff and paramedics at the QEH.”

Mr Handley prepares 30 meals a day on three days of the week.

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The food is funded by the Food4Heroes campaign, which has been set up to ensure NHS workers have access to nutritious meals during long shifts.

“I do three days a week,” said Mr Handley, who has run the Duck with his wife Sarah for seven years. “Kevin at the Neptune at Old Hunstanton does two days and Lewis at the Old Bank at Snettisham does two days.

“It’s helping me to keep my skills going. It’s nice to be in the kitchen.”

Mr Handley began his career 25 years ago, in his parents’ pub the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham, near Hunstanton.

The Duck, on the Burnham Road near the village pond, was named one of the nation’s top 50 gastro pubs last year.

But the award-winning pub has been closed and its 30 staff have been on furlough since lockdown began, along with most of the foodie Norfolk coast.

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The Handleys hope they may be able to reopen in early July so they can salvage some of their summer trade.

But they admit social distancing could make it almost impossible to operate the restaurant in its current form if staff and customers have to remain two metres apart.

Diners may well include NHS workers who have sampled their food on shift when the day finally does come.

“We’ve had some lovely messages from the ambulance staff about how much they appreciate it,” said Andrew Waddison, the Duck’s marketing manager.


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