It was a mere two months ago that I fulfilled my lifelong dream of opening a restaurant to serve the community. My vision for Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen in Downtown Fullerton, CA was to create a space where I could not only bring people together at the table to eat, but also showcase Desi cuisine in a novel, elegant manner. And so, Khan Saab was born. But, not soon after opening our doors, California and the rest of the country began taking all necessary precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19.  Unfortunately, we were forced to close our doors, as our number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of our guests and staff. We stand in solidarity with our partners in the hospitality industry to do our part and get through this together. 

These are uncertain times for sure, and while my restaurant is closed for the time being, my calling to serve my community is alive and well. During this challenging time for all of us, I want to do what I can to help reassure our neighbors and community that they are not alone. In the midst of social distancing, we hope to help bring a feeling of togetherness. That is how my team at Khan Saab and I decided that the best role we can play at a time like this is to provide provisions and meals to our community. 

Chef Imran and his team

We’ve since pledged that every Friday from 4pm to 7pm, we are going to give out hot meals, as well as uncooked rice and lentils, to anyone that comes by.  We’ve launched this program to help our neighbors in need; our seniors and single parents, especially those unemployed as a result of COVID-19 layoffs. But we won’t turn anyone away. This effort began with us hanging a sign on our door and posting on social media two weeks ago that we would be handing out basic provisions in the community; we had more than 50 families reach out to us for help. This just went to show the volume of people in our area who need assistance during this challenging time.

Now, weekly on Fridays, anyone seeking a hot meal can pull into our parking garage attached to the restaurant and a staff member will deliver the food to the car window. The food will feature variations of rice dishes like biryani and other specials served in the restaurant, rotating weekly depending on the products available, and will be a combination of 100% halal with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options to accommodate dietary restrictions. Despite not being able to showcase our food exactly the way we would like, we will maintain the restaurant’s integrity of serving high-quality Desi cuisine and give the same care and attention to these offerings as we do in the restaurant. We will do our best to feed everyone who stops by on Friday nights, and plan to increase the number of meals to support the demand on a weekly basis. 

While our restaurant might be closed for in-house dining, we still want to be able to share our food with those in need. We want to become an integral part of the community and give back to our neighbors. Our priorities have now pivoted towards doing everything we can to help during these uncertain times. In addition to our weekly “Drive Up” program, we are currently working with UCI Medical Center in Orange to drop off individually packaged meals to hospital staff, doctors and nurses to show our gratitude for those tirelessly working around the clock to help battle this pandemic. 

We plan to continue the “Drive Up” program for as long as it is necessary.  We are also looking for more opportunities to assist as time goes on. Feeding healthcare workers is something important to us.  It is our hope that through this weekly program we can help those in need during this crisis while building and cultivating relationships with our neighbors. When this is all over, we look forward to serving guests one again inside our restaurant doors, while continuing to build, maintain, and grow these new relationships

Executive Consultant Chef Imran Ali Mookhi is an award-winning culinary chef specializing in traditional Indian cuisine. He has earned national recognition as the executive chef of several high-caliber restaurants and leads the kitchen in his new eclectic eatery in Downtown Fullerton, Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen.