Marin chef tests waters with donor-supported meals for Novato seniors – Marin Independent Journal

Restaurant News

While Marin’s restaurants shut their dining rooms due to the coronavirus pandemic, Todd Davies began hatching a plan to bring his menu to the doorsteps of isolated seniors.

“We said, you know, who is the most at-risk here?” said Davies, the executive chef at Novato’s Trattoria Ghiringhelli. “And the most at-risk are senior citizens. We reached out to a couple groups and asked, ‘Do you want us to deliver complete meals to home-bound senior citizens so they don’t have to go out and expose themselves to this insidious virus?’”

The only problem? His offer of 50 free meals a day wasn’t enough to feed the nearby Los Robles Mobile Home Park of over 200 elderly residents.

“The owner of the park felt 50 meals would be problematic,” said Marty Wickenheiser, a Novato Rotary Club member and real estate agent who first suggested Los Robles, a senior community in Novato where some residents have tested positive for coronavirus, as the destination for the dishes. “How do you decide who gets a meal?”

That’s when a donor from the Los Robles management company fronted the estimated $3,000 bill to help the Ghiringhelli company feed the entire Los Robles community for three weeks. Assisted by a delivery team of Rotarians, Ghiringhelli’s partnership has produced 400 complementary plates in the past week.

“(Thursday) night we had an outrageously good meal,” said resident Elizabeth Ferris, who helped organize the distribution effort. “It was a rigatoni with a meat sauce and wonderful flavoring. And on Monday night, we had chicken marsala with rice. So we’re living high on the hog.”

Wickenheiser and Ferris worked together to ensure a sanitary transfer of the Italian American cuisine. Residents signaled how many meals they would like using a table or chair outside their home, then picked up the dishes during a designated hour to avoid ringing the doorbell. Both the cooks and Rotary delivery team used personal protective gear and followed CDC guidelines throughout the process.

“We’re going to pass them out regardless of the weather for the next couple weeks,” Ferris said. “We have about 250 to 275 people living here in a very vulnerable age group. So far we haven’t had an onslaught of COVID and we want to keep it that way.”

The hope, Davies says, is to expand delivery to similarly at-risk senior facilities like the Marin Valley Mobile Country Club and the Novato Rotary Club. Ghiringhelli’s kitchens — which include Deer Park Villa and their original Fairfax pizzeria — have the capacity to produce plenty more meals, but they’ll need more community support to fund the initiative. Davies & Co. are already committed to $9,000 worth of free meals for the Los Robles community.

“We’re committed to doing this for at least three weeks,” Wickenheiser said. “It’s just a lovely gesture on Ghiringhelli’s part. We hope that other businesses, if possible, can step up and reach out to those who are isolated.”

“Sometimes these things bring out the best in people,” Wickenheiser added.

Businesses or individuals interested in participating should email Stephanie Koehler at [email protected]

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