Monday, 26 Oct 2020

Restauranteur who gave free meals to NHS staff and vulnerable people made an MBE

A restaurant owner has been made a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for giving out free meals to NHS workers and vulnerable people during lockdown. 

David Maguire said nurses from the Beatson Cancer Centre at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital were his first customers on the first day of lockdown.

He couldn’t bring himself to charge them while they were working so hard on the frontline.

The restaurateur added: ‘We’re just making pizza and pasta but these girls were risking their lives to keep going with their patients, so we thought we’ll just give it to them.’

From that moment, Mr Maguire felt inspired to help as many people as he could during the pandemic and put his restaurant and expertise to use,

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For 11 weeks, staff at his restaurant, 1051 GWR, made 800 free meals every day for NHS staff, homeless people and families in need.

To get the ball rolling, Mr Maguire chucked in £10,000 of his own money for a fundraising campaign, which went on to raise more than £68,000.

During the 11 weeks, the Good Samaritan was sleeping in his garage because his wife Veronica was shielding. 

He said: ‘The restaurant kind of changed from a restaurant to a massive food production centre.’

Mr Maguire said he is ‘really pleased’ to be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, but stressed it was a team effort.

Without head chef Steven Caputa and employee Melody Whitley, he says he ‘wouldn’t have lasted a week’.

He added: ‘If Steven hadn’t been enthusiastic and determined none of this could’ve happened. It was really his ability as a chef and his skill as a chef.

‘When you turn round to a Michelin star chef and say how many dinners can you do, and they normally do about 40 a night.

‘When you say can you do 1,500 a day, most would say no. It’s a completely different set of skills and not many people have them, and he’s fantastic.’

Meanwhile ‘one woman army’ Ms Whitley did not take a day off during lockdown to ensure she could source enough food.

Mr Maguire said: ‘She goes around supermarkets picking up the surplus, she goes round all the manufacturers, she brings stuff to us to transform into meals, she delivers stuff from us to all the hostels in Glasgow.’

He also says he would have been lost without his wife Veronica. He added: ‘She was shielding so I had to live in our garage for 11 weeks.

‘And for 11 weeks, my wife made sure that I got a breakfast, and a dinner and kept the place warm for me and tidy and did absolutely everything so that I could spend my time out and about.

‘Without her support I wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days. If somebody is really looking after you and making sure that you’re comfortable and well fed, you can go for a very long time.

‘When you’re working with people who are motivated like that, for whom nothing is difficult or a problem, or are in a pretty good mood all the time, it’s kind of easy to do this stuff.

‘You get caught up in a wee adrenaline buzz and you’re riding the wave with it. The fact that there are good people out there who are helping you along and motivating you, we could easily see that in the NHS staff.’

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