For the past month, restaurant owner Liu Xiaohu has cooked 200 free takeout meals each day by himself for doctors who are combating the novel coronavirus in Wuhan. Credit: Daily Express.

Restaurant owner Liu Xiaohu went online, and saw how doctors and nurses on the front line of the Covid-19 fight were not eating properly, so he decided to do something about it, and, not take a single yuan in payment.

For the past month, restaurant owner Liu has cooked 200 free takeout meals each day by himself for doctors who are combating the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China Daily reported.

The 36-year-old runs a Suntata Pot Rice franchise in Wuhan, featuring steamed rice with cured meat and vegetables in clay pots that sells for 25 yuan (US$3.60) each.

“When I saw on the internet that doctors and nurses who were fighting the virus ate instant noodles and bread for lunch in hospital, I really wanted them to have some fresh and nutritious food,” Liu said.

On Jan 27, Liu joined a campaign launched by Meituan, a leading online food delivery company, that called on restaurants in the city to offer free meals in the name of “love” for doctors, the report said.

Before that, Liu had worked as both chef and waiter because his four employees had left the city for the Spring Festival holiday and had not returned. He closed the restaurant as the epidemic began to spread, the report said.

The central kitchen of the Suntata headquarters in Changsha, Hunan province, has provided meat and rice to Liu for free. It has also offered him a salary, but he refused.

“If I accepted their money, it would go against my conscience,” Liu said. “Our country is suffering from a health crisis, and it is every Chinese person’s duty to help.

“I don’t know the current situation in hospital canteens, but I guess that there is a shortage of cooks due to the virus. I will try my best to guarantee the quality and taste of my food. It will be not inferior to their canteen food.”

The food, which he spends 15 hours cooking every day, goes to a Shanghai medical team who came to support Wuhan, the report said.

In the morning, he usually buys some fresh lettuce in a market and then prepares two meals — one at 10:30 am and the other at 4:30 pm, the report said.

Since he is the only one in the restaurant, he needs to do all the work, including soaking rice for an hour and a half, preparing meat and vegetables, looking after 15 cooking stoves at the same time and packaging, the report said.

Riders from Meituan quickly transport the meals to the hospital to ensure they are warm when they arrive.

At night, Liu prepares materials for the next day and goes to sleep exhausted at the restaurant around 10 pm., the report said.

“Though I haven’t received any feedback or met any of the doctors I have served, I will still try my best to cook the best pot rice. It’s in my conscience,” he said.

“Fresh vegetables are important. For an authentic taste, I must use Shanghaiqing, a kind of Chinese cabbage, or lettuce, with good flavor.

Liu, whose hometown is Shiyan, Hubei province, started his business from scratch in 2004 in Wuhan, selling boxed lunches at the Hankou Railway Station, the report said.

In 2013, he quit and ran a grocery until June, when he opened the Suntata Pot Rice restaurant.