ABC7 Stars: Petaluma chef feeds North Bay wildfire first responders

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If you thought you cooked a lot for Thanksgiving dinner, think again. A Petaluma woman cooked more than 3,000 meals in one day for fire victims during the North Bay wildfires. (KGO-TV)

If you thought you cooked a lot for Thanksgiving dinner, think again. A Petaluma woman cooked more than 3,000 meals in one day for first responders during the North Bay wildfires.

Meredith Elliot wanted to help during the North Bay wildfires. "So I was trying to think, what I can do. And what I can do is cook," she said.

It started with 200 meals, then quickly grew.

When asked what the most meals she has made in one day, she said, "3,200 meals."

Not cold cut sandwiches - real, warm and hearty food. "There was a meatball sandwich day and then we made Bolognese and so that night for dinner was sauce and pasta," she said. "One day I did pork for 2,000 and so I slow roasted pork shoulder overnight."

Meredith and a team of volunteers made those meals for the men and women on the front lines of the wildfires. "My primary commitment was the helibase were the helicopter pilots and teams at the Petaluma Airport and they're from all over California," she said.

She touched the lives of first responders from as far north as the Oregon border and as far south as San Diego.

"And those groups are coming from all over and they're meeting each other for the first time. And it's in the middle of one of the most chaotic incidents that's not only hit California but the country and it was pretty incredible to watch all those strangers who had got to know each other over the course of a couple weeks come together with Meredith's food," Santa Rosa Fire Dept.'s Paul Lowenthal said.

"For someone to take their own time and do what she did to help us, is unprecedented. I've never seen someone put so much time and effort into helping so many of us," Santa Rosa Fire Dept. Captain Chad Costa said.

It was more than food. "Having real, emotional, deep, friend, heartfelt conversations with a lot of our people and I knew immediately she's having an impact on these people. This is exactly what this group needed. Yeah, it was pretty incredible to watch," Lowenthal said.

Those raw conversations came from Meredith's own battle. She's fighting breast cancer and says cooking all those meals was tiring but ultimately good for her spirit.

"To see what good you do for someone, even if it was just a small just to make a dent and make some food, yeah it helped me. I feel selfish saying that because I didn't do this for me but it ended up being a boost," Meredith said.

Some local fire departments have since repaid her kindness. "We treated her to some firehouse cooking," Santa Rosa Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Jeff Holden said.

"I know she probably doesn't want all the attention, but she absolutely deserves it," Lowenthal said.

Her battle with cancer continues. She'll start another round of chemotherapy next month. "There's a strength I have now that I didn't before," she said.

Meredith has friends in the food and wine industries around the Bay Area. She's a trained chef and runs her own catering business, so she was able to get all that food donated.

Meredith also hand delivered all those meals, making at least five runs each day.

Click here to donate to Meredith's nonprofit JUST ANGELS to help supplement and furnish the homes of those who lost everything in the fire.

Click here to read about more ABC7 Stars where you live.

Related Topics:
societywhere you liveABC7 StarshealthcancerfoodcookingNorth Bay FireswildfirefirefightersPetaluma
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