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Bell Centre kitchens cooking up food for charity amid coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Making meals to help those in need
WATCH: The Bell Centre has sat silent for nearly eight weeks, with both hockey games and cultural events cancelled due to COVID-19. While the ice may be empty, the kitchens behind the scenes are buzzing with chefs prepping some 16,000 meals for "La Tablée des Chefs". Video journalist Sebastien Gagnon-Dorval got this behind the scenes peek.

With the absence of hockey games, concerts and other events due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the kitchen at the Bell Centre has sat empty.

But recently, the stoves have been fired up to cook meals for those in need as part of La Tablée des Chefs’ Cuisines Solidaires, or solidarity kitchens, initiative.

The Tablée des Chefs mission is to feed the hungry and to develop culinary education for youth. Most of its regular activities have been put on hold due the the current health crisis.

With the solidarity kitchens project, the Tablée des Chefs hopes to continue its mission by mobilizing Quebec chefs and others in the food industry to produce more than 1,600,000 meals to help food banks across Quebec.

READ MORE: Greater Montreal 211 helpline sees uptick in calls, requests for food assistance amid pandemic

For Patrick Bigras, vice-president of food and beverage for Groupe CH representing the Montreal Canadiens and Evenko, taking part was only natural.

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“We always support the community with la Tablée des Chefs. During the season we give all our food surplus after every game, after every event,” he said.

“So when they asked us to support them, it was something obvious for us. We had time, we had the cooking capacity, we had the expertise.”

On Tuesday, chefs were in the Bell Centre’s main kitchen, located underneath the ice, hard at work cooking up a storm.

READ MORE: How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting food security in Canada

On the menu was chicken, with roasted vegetables and potatoes served in a creamy sauce with ingredients provided by Groupe CH partners IGA and Olymel.

“Today, we’re preparing 16,000 portions of food,” said Bigras. “Last week, we did 8,000 portions of pork.”

Centre ice at the Bell Centre as been transformed into an assembly line, of sorts, for the occassion, with around 45 people putting the meals together, all the while being careful to stay at least two metres apart, according to Bigras.

“We package everything, freeze everything and send it to Moisson Montréal,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Montreal community gardens to reopen May 4, mayor announces

The food bank is then responsible for distributing the meals to community organizations.

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Groupe CH’s goal is to prepare a total of 100,000 meals.

“It’s great to support the community and be useful during this crisis,” Bigras said.