By Clement Rossignol and Christian Levaux

LIER, Belgium (Reuters) – Belgian chef Nils Proost did not sit back when coronavirus restrictions forced the closure of his restaurant. He is now one of 30 top cooks serving meals to health sector workers across the country.

“My sister-in-law is a nurse in the emergency room in a hospital and she told us her staff restaurant is also closed due to COVID-19 measures. This was like a Eureka moment for us,” he said at his Petit Cuistot restaurant in the Belgian town of Lier.

He asked suppliers if they had food they could spare and called fellow chefs. Now his “#feedthenurses” initiative has some 30 chefs cooking meals for 40 hospitals as well as some care homes.

Proost himself prepares about 160 meals a day for the nearby Heilig Hart hospital, delivering them at around midday from Tuesday to Friday. This week, mushroom and chicken pasta and chili con carne are on the menu.

“I’m not doing the same meals as in the restaurant. That would be a little bit crazy,” he told Reuters, describing the meals as nourishing comfort food.

His counterparts spread from Bruges in northwest Belgium to Hasselt in the east.

Heilig Hart hospital director Stefaan Vansteenkiste said the meals brought a moment of light to staff during very dark days.

“Our kitchen is open for our patients, but our restaurant for personnel is closed … We can only provide them some snacks and vending machines,” he said. “So the good food is … a real meal for them.”

(Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mike Collett-White)