Real Heroes: Chef who has cooked one million meals for homeless people in London since Covid began

One of my first posts, will try to get more of these on here. Peter Grady has been feeding the homeless since 1988 (almost 33 years) and it isn’t just him, it also requires volunteers to get the food packed and delivered to those who have empty stomachs.

Peter – we salue you, full article over at website below.

While most of us get to Friday feeling like we need a rest, Peter Grady instead uses the end of the week to help feed London.

Arriving at a warehouse in Watford, the chef starts cooking at 3am. It’s a routine the 58-year-old has followed for 33 years.

Vegetables are cut the night before and 150kg of rice is prepared in specialist machines.

Huge pots specially ordered in from India are used to stir enough food for 3,000 people.

On a busy day several pots are used and by the time the sun rises and the clock strikes 6am he will have prepared 6,000 meals.

“The volunteers come in at 6.30am to box everything up,” the chef told My London, scooting over the details of the four hours he spent alone in the kitchen before this.

“That’s when people are usually having a lie in.”

Vans then arrive from 8am and the meals are distributed across the capital. Firstly 3,000 meals are taken to Wembley, then a second van load is taken to sites across Ealing, Euston, Islington, Kings Cross, Camden and Walthamstow.

A second 3,000 meals are packed up when the next van arrives and they head off to feed the community in Watford.

Constantly busy, Peter is a hard man to get hold of. When My London called him on a Tuesday afternoon (March 16) he had just arrived at a food point in Camden.

Before this he had been to deliver a sleeping bag to a former SAS soldier who is now homeless on the capital’s streets.

Minutes into the call he has to find a more secluded location as the sound of homeless men singing at the food distribution point behind him is a little distracting.

“We make it fun so homeless people don’t see it as a charity,” he giggles. “It’s brought about this community.”

With the pandemic placing a huge strain on people’s lives and many essential services having to close, Peter has upped his efforts.

A few weeks ago he celebrated his millionth meal cooked since the pandemic began.

Still, his optimism does not drop throughout the 13 minute phone call.

“The pandemic has brought out the good in a lot of people,” Peter adds. “A lot of services are not available. There are no AA meetings. The support for people isn’t there.”

While the pandemic has meant that more people are dependent on Peter’s generosity, he has a large team at Food For All with many volunteers driving vans and running projects to keep Londoners fed.

The project has a wide range of celebrity donors who have helped keep it afloat. Liam Payne recently turned up at a food project in Euston and donated £80,000 to help feed the capital’s homeless. Half of this money was donated to Food For All.

The Pretenders frontwoman Chrissy Hyde is a regular volunteer and recently paid for all the equipment at a pay what you can cafe in Watford, one of Peter’s numerous projects.

A musician himself, Peter has a lot of support from many of London’s top musicians and there are many who help out regularly.

While speaking on the phone Jennie from The Belle Stars get’s in contact with Peter. It is unclear which Jennie this is as three band members share the name to help give out food.

“It’s mostly old punk rockers,” he giggles when asked about his volunteers. “They’re all quite elderly now.”

Many stand out names help Peter in various ways. Pete Doherty has made it compulsory for people to bring food items like pasta and tinned goods to his gigs. All the donations go to the Food for All project. Camden legends Madness do the same.

But his impact goes well beyond working with celebrities.

Due to his longevity on London’s streets the chef has gathered an army of fans. He is regularly stopped in the street as passersby thank him for helping them out in their pasts.

There are two gentlemen who Peter has been serving since he first began in 1988.

“We are meeting people who were eating our meals 15 years ago,” he laughs. “I met a policeman who used to come to us for lunch as a student.”

Although Covid has meant many students have returned home, Peter explains there has been a trend in more young people turning up for help.

“There are a lot of students coming. They can either afford a travel card or a hot meal.”

This is something that has become more common in recent years alongside more Londoners becoming dependent on food banks.

In 2019/20, more than 204,000 people used a food bank in London, an increase of around 38,000 when compared to the previous year, according to Statistica.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to further increase this number.

It’s something Peter has definitely experienced. He told My London: “There is a lot of homelessness that is not visible. People sleeping on sofas or camping in people’s sheds.

“There is a huge increase in general poverty and lots more refugees. There are a lot more struggling people.”

Ever the optimist, the chef quickly moves back to a brighter topic – a new kitchen he hopes to set up in Camden.

The proposed spot at an industrial estate in Cedar Way will cook up to 5,000 meals a day and divert 15 tonnes of food from landfill.

It’s clear Peter won’t be having a lie in any time soon.