With reports of underfunding, an NHS in crisis and the cost of living forcing nurses to visit food banks and take strike action, one young chef from London’s Brick Lane is taking it upon himself to bring a smile and a nutritious meal to exhausted hospital staff this winter.
Niaz Caan, 22, is the executive chef of City Spice which was voted Best Indian Restaurant in London in 2021. On Monday 21 November, following the dinner service and in the early hours of the morning during the night shift, Niaz will launch his campaign by preparing and packaging up to 500 boxes of biriyani, packing them into his hatch back and delivering them to the nurses and health workers at Whittington Hospital in North London, he hopes the first of many hospitals. Niaz will then deliver to as many hospitals in the Southeast across a period of four weeks - with the final delivery taking place on Christmas Eve. Aiming to feed over 5000 nurses, he will wear a Santa outfit for the deliveries to help bring a smile during what is expected to be an extremely stressful, tiring, and busy period for the NHS.
The chef will be taking profits from his anticipated busy Christmas period to cover the costs of up to 5,000 free meals and he is also launching a Go Fund Me page for people to donate to hospitals and food banks.
You've been involved in helping the needy since a very young age. What led you to doing that at a tender age?
With many of my friends and family working in healthcare, I hear first-hand of the turbulent and emotional conditions they face on a daily basis. Hospitals are falling apart, with the NHS not having an adequate budget for repairs, and staff will go whole shifts just sustaining on biscuits or crackers, as they don't have time to eat properly. After all the amazing work the NHS staff have done for us since COVID-19, operating at an incredible capacity, given how stressed and overloaded the NHS is, it is admirable. Yet, the pay rise and any material benefit given to the staff was not enough. Seeing this made me want to bring a smile to the NHS nurses after such an unprecedented period of stress and work, and being the chef at City Spice, I wanted to do it through the only way I know how to - Food!
Please tell us more about your initiative to help the healthcare staff with food supplies.
Between now and Christmas eve, I will be batch cooking over 5000 boxes of Biriyani (both vegan and chicken) and delivering it to hospitals all across London and the South East. I will be cooking the Biriyani from my restaurant, City Spice, based in Brick Lane, London. I will dress up as Santa to try and bring some Christmas spirit to the staff working late night shifts at a time when they should be celebrating with their loved ones! I will be delivering the nutritious meal in the hours between 11pm-2:00am for the late-night NHS staff and hope to make them smile!
How do you fund yourself to be able to help them?
The cost of Biryani will be funded through the profits the award-winning City Spice makes during Christmas, after a turbulent year in hospitality. 5000 boxes is quite significant in cost, but I believe the NHS deserve it! I am also fundraising £13,800 through a GoFundMe, so people can show their support for the NHS and this campaign! (Details here:
The proceeds of the GoFundMe will be going to the NHS to help their working conditions and equipment, and also to food banks across London. The reason I am planning for the GoFundMe to also allocate some funds to foodbanks, is because we are now hearing stories of nurses who, due to the cost of living crisis, are visiting food banks to try and get by. In my opinion, this should not be happening in a developed economy like Britain!
How challenging is it for you to do this on a larger scale?
5000 boxes I hope, will feed the majority of the NHS staff across London during their night shifts. However, to do this on a larger scale would just mean cooking more batches and maybe doing deliveries several times throughout the day!
How can more businesses do this to join hands in solving the cost of living crisis and rising rates of homelessness and poverty?
I will admit, a lot of businesses are having a very tough time, especially hospitality due to the cost of food items, energy and wages all shooting up since the re-opening of the economy. However, across the UK, both businesses and individuals are having considerable issues and given the cost of living crisis is having a detrimental effect on many homes across the UK, businesses should help where possible!
It would be amazing if we could get a national effort going from the UK-independent hospitality industry to come together to ensure all hospital staff across the UK have a meal during the month of December! If we can encourage more restaurants to get involved to cook nutritious meals, and delivering them to their local hospitals, nurses in the midlands, north and many other areas could also benefit!
Why is charity important within the south Asian community?
I think charity is important as it fulfils a need by helping those who are often overlooked in the community. In our South-Asian community, recently we have been achieving great feats in media, music, hospitality and so many other areas. We should take our success and as always, give to the less fortunate. Hopefully, the good wishes of our community and those who we can help - propel the South-Asian community to more success so we can help more people! Charity is always good, and we should always strive to help where we can.