DUBAI – An Indian Hindu chef, Bobby Kapoor, dedicates his time during the holy month of fasting each year to prepare and provide iftar meals to people less fortunate in Dubai, the UAE.
“By the time Ramadan draws to an end this year, approximately 60,000 laborers will have had a hot meal, drink, and dessert,” Kapoor told The National on June 11 while talking about his ‘Classic Catering’ business.
His steadfast conviction that corporate social responsibility should be a cornerstone for all successful companies has resulted in tens of thousands of hungry people being offered nourishment and sustenance when they need it the most.
The three-decade experienced chef and also an author, continued: “We started in 2015 when 1,500 people turned up at our chosen location to receive iftar. In 2016, we handed out meals to 17,000 people, and last year it was more than 30,000. So, this year, I set my sights on 50,000, but it will have worked out more like 60,000 by the time we’ve finished.”
Kapoor explains that each meal costs Dh10 and is paid for by company’s intent on doing their bit for good causes during the holy month.
“Each day we’re doing something different, but the meal packs always include something cold – like water, dates, a nutritious juice or laban. There is always a meat and rice dish, but the desserts change constantly – it is the part of the meal that always appeals to Muslims and Indian people,” he said.
“For the quantities, we’re preparing, by far the simplest and safest meat is chicken, and we cook everything together, so the packaging process is kept as streamlined as possible. The way everything works, means we’re able to feed 2,000 people a day, but I’m constantly looking for ways to do more.”
Out of Respect
Classic Catering’s volunteers set up their distribution points at Dubai Investment Park and various labor camps across the Emirati city, with recipients often nominated by the companies that fund the meals.
Kapoor explains: “I’m not Muslim, but during Ramadan, I often fast, out of respect for the Muslim people in my teams who are helping. It’s not easy working and standing in the heat, having prepared up to 600kg of meat a day, and nearly 400kg of rice, knowing that you won’t be able to have any until much later in the day.”
“I usually don’t get a chance to eat until after 8 pm, and you have to remember that it isn’t all over once these people have had their meals – we have to get back to base with all the equipment and make sure it’s cleaned and ready for the following day,” he added.
Driven by a sense of gratitude, Kapoor says the experience can be overwhelming for him and the army of volunteers who join in and come from across the region and beyond.
“Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait – even USA and UK – people from so many places have been wanting to get involved; goodness just seems to come from everywhere,” he said.
He says this selfless spirit of giving is manifested by big corporations, too. “A lady at Hertz [car rental] asked me just a few days ago about how we were transporting the meals to the serving areas and labor camps,” he recalls.
“I explained that we have three or four vehicles, but that we were struggling to meet the demand with them. So, the next thing I know, she’s offering the use of another vehicle, free of charge, which has been an enormous help for us to meet our targets.”