Chef offers free meals in Queenstown as resort town reels

Ben Batterbury serving food from his Munch catering food truck in Queenstown. Photo: Supplied via...
Ben Batterbury serving food from his Munch catering food truck in Queenstown. Photo: Supplied via RNZ
A Queenstown chef who was cooking for wealthy tourists is now providing free food parcels for people in need in the community.

Ben Batterbury is selling fish and chips from his food truck to make ends meet in a dramatically altered market.

Despite the struggle to earn a living for his own family in a town with no virtually no tourists, Batterbury is giving away 10 parcels of fish and chips each week.

"We are swimming in op creek, but we've still got a paddle, whereas others I know don't," Batterbury said.

"This is my way of giving back."

He said a real cross-section of people reach out for the free meals.

"There are people that we know they started a business last year, all their members lost their jobs, so they lost 70 percent of their members and had to go into liquidation, that's heartbreaking you know.

"We've had construction workers, hospitality people, chefs, you name it. English people, South American, it's been very varied. There are hardly any prospects for jobs for them."

Batterbury hopes other businesses will be inspired to give away 10 free meals a week.

People have also donated money to contribute to the giveaway meals.

"A guy came around the other day and said 'My missus just told me what you're doing' and he gave us $50 and some beers to help support what we're doing.

"It doesn't have to be a lot, but you do a little bit then somebody gives a little bit more, then somebody else gives a little bit and then suddenly it becomes a real snowball effect.''

Batterbury, who started Munch Catering from a mobile kitchen last year, has lived in Queenstown for 11 years.

Bookings for events and catering for visitors to luxury holiday homes started being cancelled as soon as the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in.

Changing tack to meet the needs of the local market, he began selling meals from his food truck, which he parks near breweries and subdivisions.

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