20 Mar Ofer Eitan Divulge: Chefs across the US are transforming their restaurants into…
For Chef Edward Lee, the layoffs felt personal. As someone who has restaurants across the country, he knew his friends and co-workers would struggle in wake of such strict measures.
“People are going hungry and no one has paychecks and no one knows what the future is,” Lee told CNN. “We saw an immediate need to open up our kitchen to help the millions of restaurant workers that are out of work, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck.”
Working out of the restaurant’s catering kitchen, volunteers gave out hundreds of toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers and meals to laid off restaurant workers in the city.
Over 400 restaurant workers were able to receive food and other necessities at 610 Magnolia Wednesday night.
His efforts caught the attention of other chefs.
With financial support from whiskey brand Maker’s Mark, the program has now expanded to Cincinnati via chef Jose Salazar, Los Angeles via chef Nancy Silverton’s Pizzeria Mozza, and Washington DC via Lee’s restaurant Succotash.
There are plans to expand the program to Seattle and New York as well, said Collis Hillebrand, executive director at Wagstaff Worldwide, a hospitality-focused public relations and marketing company that is working with the LEE Initiative.
Laundry detergent, tampons and other necessities to be given out to laid off restaurant workers.
“In so many cities around the world, (service workers) are so important to the cultural fabric of our community, but many of them don’t have a safety net,” Rob Samuels, managing director of Maker’s Mark Distillery, said. “We’re deeply committed to do everything we can to step up and help these people in the restaurant industry.”
The program has enough donations to keep the program going in five cities for two weeks, Lee’s spokesman said. In order to keep providing food and supplies to restaurant workers, the program is seeking additional donations.
New York chefs commit to 1 million gallons of soup
Meanwhile, in New York, a separate coalition of chefs led by chef Eric Korn and restaurateur Louie Lanza, have set a goal to cook 1 million gallons of soup to provide restaurant workers.
Chef Mike Anastacio and his team at Fin & Brew in Peekskill, New York, prepare soup for the Million Gallon Challenge.
“All of our walk in boxes are full of produce that is going to waste,” Korn said in a message to other chefs on Million Gallons’ website. “In two weeks, our city and maybe our country will be faced with figuring out food. This is one of those rare times in our lives where we truly have the opportunity to step up.”
“It’s safe, we boil soup, and freeze and store it in quart containers. It makes logistic sense, it’s easy to store and move. It makes health sense, it can be boiled to be reheated, so we know it will be safe to eat.”
Feeding America in a time of crisis
Of course, restaurant workers are not the only ones hit hard by this crisis. The US Labor Department reported that more than 280,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.
With food being an absolute necessity to survive, many organizations are doing what they can to keep Americans from going hungry.
The meals will be sold at reduced prices or even for free for those who can’t afford them, according to Andrés.