Mary-Ellen McTague - Manchester's lockdown hero chef
- Credit: Rebecca Lupton
When the pandemic took hold, the Manchester chef turned her attention to feeding the needy and those on the frontline.
From the kitchens of her Manchester restaurant The Creameries in Chorlton, and before that Aumbry in Prestwich, Mary-Ellen McTague, has built an impressive reputation. She has a large and loyal army of fans and has been lauded by respected food critics for doing wonderful things to locally-sourced ingredients and producing fabulously-flavoursome dishes.
But when restaurants were forced to close their doors and the future of the hospitality industry was shrouded in doubt, she shifted her focus.
With a sister working as a doctor in the NHS, Mary-Ellen knew of the strain the service was coming under and the message she heard was that help was needed to feed people.
She co-founded Eat Well MCR which has provided, and continues to provide, tens of thousands of chef-made dishes to vulnerable people across the city. She galvanised the efforts of those chefs and worked with a number of other food, drink and events businesses, as well as a network of volunteers, too.
They started by repurposing food from restaurants that had to close, saving it from being thrown away. And the efforts grew from there.
Throughout the lockdowns Mary-Ellen, a former winner of Lancashire Life Chef of the Year Award, was instrumental in making sure frontline NHS staff had food to eat, and provided supplies for food banks and meals for parents with children in hospital across Manchester.
In the midst of the crisis, the Bury-born chef told Lancashire Life: ‘Everyone wants to work together and help out where they can. It’s amazing. I’m seeing the absolute best of everybody.
Mary-Ellen also helped the emergency food response led by Manchester charity Back on Track, of which she is a patron, which saw thousands of meals made for people in need.
A life in food
Mary-Ellen was the first female chef at the then Michelin-starred Sharrow Bay in Ullswater. In 2002, she moved to Heston Blumenthal’s internationally-renowned The Fat Duck in Bray before moving to work with Paul Heathcote in Lancashire in 2006 and then at the much-lauded Ramsons in Ramsbottom.In 2009 she opened Aumbry in Prestwich, the restaurant that brought her universal praise. After it closed in 2014, she ran several pop-up restaurants across Manchester before The Creameries launched in 2018.
She has appeared on Great British Menu and Manchester International Festival commissioned her to create dining experiences.
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Whether it was tips on making family and budget friendly food in lockdown, delivering gourmet boxes or fighting for the future of the hospitality industry, the Chadderton chef did it all.
Lucy Danger of EMERGE Group, which manages FareShareGreater Manchester, has driven the response and worked to secure enough funds to help thousands of people in need of food as a result of Covid. emergemanchester.com
The footballer formed the Child Food Poverty Task Force, petitioned parliament and campaigned to help alleviate child food poverty, saying ‘no child should go hungry. endchildfoodpoverty.org