Every night for the past month, Anthony O'Shaughnessy, a chef based in the U.K., has been calling up his elderly neighbor before making dinner to ask if he'd also like a plate.
The elderly man named Peter (who asked that his last name be withheld) is in his 70s and has lived in the same house for the last 40 years. He even used to help O'Shaughnessy's grandmother, who previously lived in the chef's home, with her groceries and garden.
"When the lockdown was announced in the U.K., we were concerned for him because we know he has had health problems the last few years. We found his phone number, which we kept for emergencies, and we called him to check he was ok," O'Shaughnessy told TODAY Food.
As it turns out, Peter's grocery delivery had been canceled twice and when it did finally arrive, half of the items were missing. So O'Shaughnessy, who was a semi-finalist on the British version of "MasterChef" in 2018, offered to wrap up a plate of food for his neighbor.
"I had made some roast beef and vegetables for dinner. I made an apple crisp also, so I plated that up, too," he said. "I left the tray on his doorstep, rang the bell and stood at his gate so I was at a safe distance. We had a little chat and I told him what I had made. We have continued that ritual since."
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Earlier this week, O'Shaughnessy reflected on the experience via Twitter. His simple post quickly went viral, garnering over 400,000 likes within days.
Many tweeters were inspired by the chef's sweet gesture and shared photos of meals they've cooked for their neighbors during this time.
Some of O'Shaughnessy's followers even said they were feeding their neighbors before coronavirus lockdowns began.
O'Shaughnessy said the lockdown in his town has been especially difficult for Peter, who loves getting outside to play golf.
"I realized that my meals are giving him a great experience while he is at home, and it has encouraged me to make them as delicious as possible. It’s a nice challenge for me: How much joy can I put into a plate of food?" he said
Cooking for Peter has also made O'Shaughnessy realize they have a lot in common.
"His favorite meal so far has been Moroccan lamb meatball tagine," said the chef. "I was worried it might be a little spicy for him, but he traveled the world when he was younger, when he served in the navy."
O'Shaughnessy's simple act of kindness has made a real impact on his neighbor, too.
"I called him the other night to tell him what I had made — broccoli Alfredo and a lime-frosted carrot cake — and he told me, ‘I love these calls, I look forward to them all day'. I was really touched by that, and that inspired me to share our arrangement on social media to inspire my friends and work colleagues to help their neighbors," he said.
Even after stay-at-home orders are lifted, O'Shaughnessy plans to keep cooking for his neighbor, who has now also become a friend.
"I never realized how much I had in common with my neighbor," he said. "I think it’s wonderful that we have the same taste in world foods, and I’ve never shared that with anybody in my family or community. It’s nice to be helping somebody with a rich life experience, and his service in the navy makes me feel like it’s an ongoing reward he deserves!"