Life & Leisure

The cook whipping up 8,500 meals a day at Spain’s largest community diner

By Pilar Salas

Madrid, Apr 23 (efe-epa).- Karla Hoyos is whipping up 8,500 meals a day for people in need at Spain’s largest community kitchen.

Created by Spanish-American cook José Andrés, the NGO World Central Kitchen launched in 2010 as an initiative to feed people in disaster zones.

Hoyos, who is no novice to WCK and helped cook for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, jumped on the opportunity when Andrés asked her to join the project in Spain’s capital as the country grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her answer was “obviously, yes,” Hoyos tells Efe, although her mother wasn’t so sure.

“How can you do this to me? How can you think of that? From what is seen in the international media, you breathe and become infected,” the chef’s mother told her apprehensively.

But Hoyos bid her farewells and flew “with a load of disinfectant” to Spain where she had already worked with Martín Berasategui in Lasarte (Guipúzcoa).

“When you think of Spain, a country where there are people who are hungry does not come to mind. That need affects me, it has been a shock,” she admits.

Accustomed to cooking with no light and multiple impediments in humanitarian crises, her kitchen in Santa Eugenia has a team of about 70 volunteers who prepare and deliver 2,500 sandwiches that “weigh half a kilo, because for many it is their only meal a day and they come with salads and legumes”.

The team also dishes out 6,000 balanced meals a day containing carbohydrates, protein and vegetables.

“They are like mixed platters, with high caloric intake, the necessary amount for one person in a day. Hake dumplings with rice and beans, pasta with vegetable bolognese…” are just some of the meals on offer.

“Although there are donations, WCK bears the expenses of the raw materials,” Hoyos tells Efe.

Volunteers are divided into teams that work in a coordinated way so that the rations arrive in perfect condition, because “it is not just about sending food, but that the people who receive it are happy, that they know that we are by their side”.

And the people receiving the food are well aware of the care put into the process.

“They send us very loving photos or messages. I know that in Spain we like to eat well and we take great care of it; the whole team is proud of the food we make and the response we receive.”

The 32-year-old works “about 14 hours a day”, but far from feeling exhausted, she sees her work as “beautiful and gratifying”.

“We continue with the ambition to give more meals.”

And it is not just those in need of getting delicious food, Hoyos likes to feed her volunteers as well.

“This Friday I’m going to make Mexican food for them.”

Hoyos says she did feel some “pressure” when she was asked to join the NGOs branch in Andrés’ home country, which now provides 20,000 meals a day and operates in Madrid, Barcelona, ??Valencia, Seville, Coruña, Huelva, Cádiz, Jaén and Marbella (Málaga).

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