Queen's Birthday Honours: Caterer who gave out free meals gets BEM
- Credit: Jas Singh
A restaurant owner who dished out 7,500 free meals to emergency workers, hospitals and care homes during the pandemic has been given the British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Wazid Hassan, who runs Mile End's Pride of Asia restaurant and owns the Mayfair Venue in Chadwell Heath, was impacted by the lockdown.
His restaurant and catering business came to a halt for the first time in 25 years. But he wouldn't be defeated and got his 12 staff busy preparing meals and organising volunteers to distribute food to those in need.
"God gave me good health to earn a good living," the father-of-four said. "You need to pay back to society, so I helped needy people during the pandemic."
Wazid started his catering business in 1996 when he was 23, and soon opened his restaurant in Mile End Road.
He also provided catering at cost price for daycare centres in the East End such as St Hilda’s East Community Centre in Club Row.
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"It was a shock having to shut down," he recalled. "So I got volunteers together to send food to hospitals and care homes."
Now at 48, he has been recognised for service to the community with the Queen's Award being announced on June 12.
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"It has come as a surprise," Wazid admits. "My wife was over the moon when we got the letter."
The couple have four grown-up children and still live in Whitechapel where he grew up after his parents arrived from Bangladesh in the 1980s.
Wazid went into partnership during the latest lockdown, with McDonald’s at Redbridge and Romford and the Seven Kings Lions Club charity to supply meals to 10 hospitals and care homes and to key staff in police, ambulance and fire stations.
His manager at the Mayfair Venue, Jas Singh, explained: "We started helping Queen's and King George hospitals and word soon spread. We got calls from other hospitals including the Royal London asking for help.
"Once we started, we couldn't stop."
Wazid also distributed 1,000 meals to the homeless in Whitechapel in 2018 and took part in a community event to send 10,000 Iftar meals to Muslims worldwide in 2009.
The Mayfair Venue has only recently been granted planning permission at appeal to change from a bingo hall to a wedding and events venue and community facility.