Restaurant Workers Relief Center in Louisville
In response to massive layoffs in the hospitality industry due to the COVID-19 outbreak nationwide, Chef Edward Lee, in partnership with The LEE Initiative and Maker’s Mark, launched The Restaurant Workers Relief Program to offer free meals and critical supplies to restaurant workers across the country. Maker’s Mark is funding the Restaurant Workers Relief Fund by covering the costs of labor, supplies and employee wages.
It all began on Tuesday, March 17 when Lee served 400 meals to individuals in the restaurant industry who had recently become unemployed out of the catering kitchen at 610 Magnolia in Louisville. The inspiring gesture grew into a nationwide movement, with 14 relief centers in 13 cities across the country including Nancy Silverton at Chi Spacca in Los Angeles and Edourardo Jordan at Salare in Seattle, jumping on board to feed their communities.
610 Magnolia prepping meals
“When restaurants suddenly closed in the entire state of Kentucky, we saw that there was going to be an immediate need for help for our fellow restaurant workers, many of whom were laid off without much notice,” Lee says. “Within 24 hours, we turned 610 Magnolia into a restaurant workers relief center. Maker’s Mark has donated enough funding to ensure we can get these kitchens up and running for at least three weeks in 13 cities.”
In Chicago, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group has been offering hundreds of meals each night at West Town Bakery along with bags of groceries and essential supplies like toilet paper. In Denver, Alon Shaya and Pomegranate Hospitality are doing the same each night at Safta. “We are honored to have a chance to give back,” Shaya says. “This is a way to keep our restaurant active, utilizing our resources to feed and provide supplies for the Denver community, one that has been gracious and welcoming to us.”
Meals at Louisville Relief Center
“Independent bars and restaurants are really struggling at this time, and it’s impossible to sit by and not want to help,” says Maker’s Mark managing director Rob Samuels. “So many of these chefs, bartenders and their teams are our friends, customers, and folks we’ve been honored to host at the Maker’s Mark Distillery, so when our partner chef Edward Lee of the LEE Initiative asked if we could lend a hand to help his teams and other restaurant workers in the community, it wasn’t even a question, we were ready to help and were going to do whatever we could.” Maker’s Mark has provided the seed money to activate a relief kitchen and keep it open for roughly three weeks, relying heavily on the participating chefs time, energy and contacts in their local cities. By March 29, more than 20,000 meals had been donated.
Relief Center care package
“We need food, supplies and donations in every city we are in or else the relief kitchen cannot go beyond the three weeks and, unfortunately, we all agree that this crisis is going to last longer than that,” Lee says. Online donations to the LEE Initiative are welcome and will help extend this service throughout the current public health crisis. The hope is to continue the RWRF throughout the entire time that restaurant workers are in need, as long as restaurants are closed. “We can keep this going through the support of our communities and corporate sponsors willing to support our programming,” says Pomegranate Hospitality co-founder Emily Shaya. “We are the backbone of so many communities, and we need a viable way to come back.” Supplies can also be donated directly in Denver through their Amazon wishlist.
The Fifty/50 co-founders Scott Weiner and Greg Mohr serving free meals at The Fifty/50
Many other noble efforts to feed restaurant workers in need, not affiliated with the LEE Initiative, are being made across the country too. Nando’s is providing 2,000 free meals a day to laid-off restaurant and hospitality workers in the US across all of their locations.
Thanks to funding from an anonymous Chicago tech CEO, in addition to their work with LEE Initiative, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group has been serving 400 pre-packaged meals each evening to furloughed and laid off restaurant workers from their Wicker Park flagship. The gourmet menu changes daily, from beef stroganoff with butter noodles to roasted half chicken with garlicky potatoes and Greek salad.
“We’ve always worked hard to be great corporate partners in the communities that support our establishments,” says The Fifty/50 co-founder Scott Weiner. “All of the food that we are serving is being purchased from local Chicago food distributors who are suffering right there alongside of us.” Donations can be made here to help staff at The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group.
The Fifty/50 Food Drive Meals
Sarah Zelman Source