CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte caterer decided to show gratitude to the healthcare workers that have been risking their lives for the past year the best way he knew how: he fired up his smoker.
Steven "Big Steve" Jessup said he has been cooking food for more than 15 years.
"I love cooking, and I put a lot into it," Jessup said, his eyes glinting through his glasses.
Jessup and the members of his mosque are often looking for ways to contribute to the community. It often involves a big plate of Jessup's brisket.
"Everybody likes to eat, and everybody likes to eat good!" his friend Maurice Shareef joked. "He’s a chef master. The brother here can cook anything."
Shareef and Jessup belong to a group within their mosque called M.E.C.C.A.: Men Elevating Cultivating Community Advancement.
As North Carolina approached the one-year mark since the first COVID case, the members of M.E.C.C.A. decided they wanted to give back.
"We feel like it’s something we should do," Imam Khalil Akbar said. "This pandemic has affected a whole lot of people."
So, Jessup went to work, getting everything he would need to prepare a barbecue feast.
On Friday, he fired up his grill, and began the 16-hour process of smoking brisket with his signature sauce, grilling chicken and salmon, cooking macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and potato salad.
By the time he was done on Saturday, Jessup and his crew had prepared enough meals to feed 115 healthcare heroes. They packaged it all up and hand-delivered it to Atrium Health Saturday.
"Wanted to just show our gratitude and appreciation for all that they do," Jessup said. "They put their lives on the line, they put their families' lives on the line to do what they’re doing. Some of them are not making it. You know, it’s serious."
As expected, the barbecue hit the spot.
"We are so appreciative of Mr. Jessup and everyone in the community who continues to support our healthcare heroes as this pandemic marks one year," Atrium Health spokesperson Kate Gaier wrote in an email to WCNC Charlotte Saturday.
Jessup said he was proud that he was able to give back and give thanks to the men and women who are giving so much for our community. He has already made several other large meal donations since the start of the pandemic, and Jessup said he intends to do more.
"We came together to do it for a good cause," Jessup said. "For the best cause at this time."
If you would like to help, Atrium Health has a resource page with ways to give back.