Keeping it clean

A currently unemployed cook has been keeping busy making and delivering healthy meals to essential workers from Coupeville to Clinton.

Juan Zalapa, who worked in the kitchen of the Taproom at Bayview Corner before the governor-mandated closure of its bar, came up with the idea for Eat Clean Whidbey as a way to spend his time productively.

For Zalapa, the name of his free delivery service he started offering this week has a dual meaning. He explained the food itself is not only “clean eating” with low fat and low salt content, but he and a friend have also been safely preparing meal portions and taking the necessary precautions by donning masks and gloves.

Finding a commercial kitchen to prepare the food was initially a challenge, since both the kitchens at the fairgrounds and the community center were unavailable.

But Kim Bailey, owner of Pickles Deli in Clinton, stepped up and decided to volunteer her kitchen for the cause, free of charge.

On Sunday when Pickles Deli is closed, Zalapa has been cooking the meals and packaging them with the help of a friend. The first week, he made chicken teriyaki, barbecue chicken and a vegetarian wrap.

“I had one of each meal, and they were delicious,” Bailey said.

“I hope he is able to continue to do it,” she added.

Zalapa is currently seeking a new kitchen to prepare food in, since Pickles Deli plans to reopen on Sundays in two weeks.

He made 75 meals total the first time and delivered them to WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, the Freeland walk-in clinic and community members.

Though Zalapa doesn’t own a car himself, Dennis Nichols of All Island Express Taxi offered to provide a vehicle for transporting the meals. Delivery happens on Monday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“There’s people from the community working together,” Zalapa said. “For some of them it may not be money, but they’re using a bigger currency, which is time.”

He plans to change the menu every couple weeks. The first few weeks will be spent using the chicken and veggies he already has, although he has also added a chicken curry option to the menu. Orders can be placed Tuesday through Saturday by calling 425-737-9161.

Health care workers, first responders, police officers and grocery store employees can all receive meals at a 50 percent discounted price. Meals are available for purchase at full price for anyone else interested. Delivery is free but when possible, tips are acceptable. He is asking for people to pay with cash or check.

Zalapa said crises like these can bring out two different kinds of people.

“They show people who will completely just want to isolate themselves and not want to give,” he said, “but you also find the people who are willing to give, even if it’s not financially.”

David Krolokouski and Juan Zalapa, right, prepare meals every Sunday in the kitchen of Pickles Deli in Clinton.

David Krolokouski and Juan Zalapa, right, prepare meals every Sunday in the kitchen of Pickles Deli in Clinton.