Feature: Turkish cooks prepare meals for at-risk elderly in Istanbul amid COVID-19 outbreak

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by Zeynep Cermen

ISTANBUL, May 21 (Xinhua) -- More than 90 Turkish cooks, including well-known chefs, have been preparing healthy meals for Isranbul's at-risk senior citizens who have been locked down at their homes for nearly two months as part of the measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have been cooking two meals for at least 2,400 seniors per day in the Kadikoy district on the Asian side of the largest city in Turkey since the pandemic was first seen in the country in around mid-March.

The project has been developed by two chefs, Umut Karakus and Sinan Budeyri, with the aim of delivering healthy food to the elderly who could not cook their meals during the health crisis.

"When we presented the project to the Kadikoy Municipality, it immediately opened its doors to us and took the responsibility of distributing the meals to seniors," Karakus told Xinhua on Thursday.

Karakus and Budeyri have been determining the menu, with low salt and spices, giving instructions to those in charge of the kitchen each day.

"We have numerous volunteers, including stewardesses, cabin crew members, physicians, architects and engineers," Karakus said, noting their contributions are priceless as the preparation of meals requires a lot of hard work.

"In some meals, we are using 100 kg of carrots or many more potatoes," he continued. "We need as much as people to peel them and make them ready in time."

According to Karakus, around 15 cooks have been working each day in the kitchen.

"We were once cooking for a maximum of 200 people in a day, spending hours on a single plate. Now, we are in a quite different position," Sinan Budeyri told Xinhua.

There are some elderly people in the district, who are completely dependent on these meals and even cannot walk, according to Budeyri.

"Sometimes we knock on their doors, and it takes over 10 minutes for some of them to open it," Budeyri said. "When I see the conditions of these people, I realize what a right decision we have given by launching this project.

The two chefs said they have worked hard to find sponsorships for the project at the beginning.

"But we know the suppliers very well, and we used our contacts," Budeyri noted, saying several big brands of dairy products and pulses are now among their contributors.

"We have grabbed a very natural synergy here, and we should carry it to an upper level with new and bigger projects," Budeyri said.

Karakus owns Muutto Istanbul, a street food and meze bar-restaurant, while Budeyri runs a restaurant named Markus Prime Ribs Society and Nino Bakery in Istanbul.

Lale Gulcan, another chef taking part in the project, said the team has also been cooking for the health care workers in the Tuzla district for at least three weeks now.

"Tomorrow we will make a dessert for 3,000 people," Gulcan said. "I am very happy and proud to be involved in this project," she told Xinhua.

Seen as the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, the elderly aged 65 and older across Turkey have been under lockdown since March 21 as part of the government's measures against the pandemic. Enditem

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