BY DONNA DUARTE-LADD AND ERICA YOUNG
Nestled in the hub of Williamsburg on a street packed with popular shops and restaurants is The Chefs Agency. Founded in 2007 by Nard Nooket, this popular catering company is known for serving a delicious seasonal menu of farm-fresh French, Italian Mediterranean, and Southeast Asian cuisine to some of the top photo and film productions in and around New York.
Like many of us, the life of this mother of two changed overnight when COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic. With the food industry being one of the hardest hit, she quickly realized her business would be unable to cater to clients. When touching base with her mother in Thailand and speaking about what she could do next, her mother encouraged her to use what she has, which was food from jobs that were not going to be and “help people.” Heeding this advice, Nard began to channel her energy towards helping her community. “I knew once this pandemic was starting to shut businesses, I couldn’t just not do anything,” said Nooket. Along with colleague Bridgid Egilmez and their tight-knit crew of cooks, they took advantage of a kitchen stocked with food and hit the ground running by starting a non-profit volunteer food program for essential healthcare workers.
Like most good intentions, it takes a village. When client and friend Simon Malivindi, founder of One Thirty-Eight Productions heard of Nooket’s program, he immediately jumped in to help. “When Nard mentioned to me this volunteer food program, there was no question we would help; we just had to figure out how,” said Malivindi
A GoFundMe account was started to help pay for operating costs, and, in a grassroots fashion, the team was able to connect with a local Facebook group who helped connect them with hospitals in Queens. The Chefs Agency Healthworkers Food Program started with five hospitals, all in Queens. Recently Beth Israel and NYU were added to the program. And when one of the prep cooks based in Queens was informed by his local church that there were families in need of meals, the program expanded to feed these families. When meals were delivered, the team found that some had not eaten a meal for at least a week. They have since expanded to feed low-income families in Brooklyn.
Who they feed isn’t a hard decision for the team. “Really, it’s about feeding the most extreme cases, which are the health workers and low-income families,” shared Egilmez.
In a time when so many people need help, families and organizations within a community are supporting each other. We are thankful that with the nudge of one mother, living in another county, to her daughter, who is also a mother, an amazing resource began. Mothers are often the heart of a family, and when that family extends into a community, all of our hearts open and support each other.
Donate to The Chefs Agency Healthworkers Food Program’s GoFundMe page.
This story originally appeared on newyorkfamily.com.