An army marches on its stomach, says a maxim attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. Accordingly, French hospital staff, the frontline troops in what President Emmanuel Macron calls the "war" on coronavirus, are being treated to free gourmet meals cooked by the chefs of some 260 restaurants.

Stéphane Méjanès, a well-known food writer, launched the initiative with Guillaume Gomez, the president's chef, after restaurants were closed.

Tiptoque, a company that pioneered home deliveries of dishes prepared by Michelin-starred chefs, transports thousands of meals daily to hard-pressed staff at French hospitals, many of which are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. Public hospitals stipulated that the meals had to be specially prepared to be eaten quickly, often while standing up.

Among those taking part is Dominic Quirke, a chef from Newcastle whose Pickles restaurant in Nantes, western France, has won acclaim from Parisian food critics. He and Jean-Yves Guého, a Michelin-starred Nantes chef, have brought comfort to hundreds of staff at the main city hospital with dishes such as navarin d'agneau (lamb stew) and Saint-Honoré chocolate vanilla cake.

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"This is the least I could do to say thank you," said Antonio Torres, a Paris chef. Among the dishes he cooked this week were émincé of chicken and tarte tatin, France's famous caramelised apple tart.

Meanwhile in Spain, top chefs and delivery drivers from locked-down restaurants are doing their bit to ensure the country's health workers are equally well fed.

As millions of Spaniards take to their balconies every evening to applaud healthcare workers' efforts, chefs like Ferdinando Bernardi have decided to show their appreciation by cooking for them.

In normal times Mr Bernardi makes exquisite Italian-inspired dishes at his Michelin-starred Orobianco restaurant near Alicante. With the restaurant closed to the public, from now on he will be making pizzas "until there is nothing left in the fridge" and delivering them to health workers and the needy.

"Everybody has to help as best they can. What I know is cooking," Mr Bernardi told the local newspaper Levante.

In Madrid, Hugo Rodríguez, the co-owner of Grosso Napoletano, a pizza restaurant chain, launched the Food4Heroes initiative to get supplies to hospital staff, collaborating with dozens of restaurants across the city to help meet the demand. Delivery services, taxis and even postal workers ferry the food to where it is needed.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

"My partner and I were alarmed at our business situation [when the restaurants were shut down], but we felt we had to do something," Mr Rodríguez told The Telegraph.

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Now, delivery services, taxis and even postal workers ferry the food to where it is needed, and the concept has been copied in other Spanish cities.

"These are very difficult times for all staff, and these gestures help a lot. Thank you, thank you. We´ll keep working," wrote one nurse from the Bilbao area to Food4Heroes.

The concept has been copied in several other Spanish cities, including Barcelona and Bilbao, and Mr Rodríguez hopes that it will be emulated in other countries.

In the UK, a website - food4heroes.co.uk - has been set up, asking businesses, volunteers and NHS trusts to sign up and coordinate a food delivery service.

Other leading Spanish chefs are lending their skills to the benefit of a locked-down population with time to spend in the kitchen.

Ferran Adrià, whose now-closed El Bulli was rated as the world's best by Restaurant magazine on five occasions, is offering a daily three-course meal tutorial on social media.

-The Telegraph