On most afternoons, lunch is a rushed affair for the doctors and nurses at Seoul Metropolitan Dongbu Hospital in Seoul, one of the city’s hospitals designated as a coronavirus-only medical institution for confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Last week, however, the institution’s medical staff were treated to lunchboxes carefully put together by chefs from MICHELIN-star restaurants across the city. They included Seoul’s two three-MICHELIN-star restaurants Gaon and La Yeon; seven two-MICHELIN-star restaurants, as well as 18 one-star restaurants serving a diverse range of cuisines including contemporary Korean, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and more.
Accompanying the lunchboxes filled with premium ingredients such as abalone, Hanwoo beef and ginseng were notes with positive messages from the renowned chefs and their kitchen teams. “We are behind you. Thank you and keep up the hard work!,” read one message. “We hope this small token of our appreciation will help to brighten your day,” said another.
The medical workers’ lunchboxes were just part of the total of 1,500 meals sent out as part of the MICHELIN Star Heart Lunchbox initiative organised by Michelin Korea in partnership with the Seoul Metropolitan City Government to express Michelin’s support for the local community as well as Korea’s restaurant industry, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Between 11 to 12 May, the lunchboxes were distributed to five hospitals across the city that are exclusively treating Covid-19 infected cases, including Ewha Womans University Seoul Hospital, Seoul Metropolitan Dongbu Hospital, Seoul Child Hospital, Seoul Seonam Hospital and Seoul Medical Center, as well as General Senior Welfare Centers for the Elderly in the Gangseo and Seodaemun districts. The latter provide meals, housework, counselling and nursing care for elderly citizens who live alone.
Michelin Korea Managing Director Juheang Lee, together with Michelin employees and volunteers from the Food Bank helped to distribute the restaurant meals to the beneficiaries.
Lee says: “The ‘MICHELIN Star Heart Lunchbox’ initiative represents the sincere appreciation of our community for the medical staff who are highly committed to the Covid-19 crisis while encouraging the elderly who may be going through difficult times during this period.”
Mi-ran Moon, Vice Mayor of Administrative Affairs in Seoul Metropolitan City Government, says “We are pleased to join the opportunity to share our appreciation to medical staff as well as hope to our neighbors in need. The Seoul Metropolitan City will continue to support our citizens’ voluntary charity programs to help our local society and vulnerable neighbors.”
For chef Kim Byung-jin, chief executive chef of three-MICHELIN-star Gaon, who created a chicken and ginseng lunchbox inspired by the traditional Korean dish of samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), participation in the project was a team decision.
“All of my staff were very happy and excited to contribute to the community and the current situation. Although they had to make these lunch packages on Monday, which is the only off-day that we have this month, they were all very committed to doing some good,” he says.
“I would like to remind everyone including myself that spring always returns when winter ends. The harsh cold and severe snowstorm may blind us from seeing what’s ahead of us, but spring filled with warmth and rebirth will eventually come around. I believe we will all be able to get over this pandemic together and get our normal lives back soon. So please stay strong and safe!”