With so many hospitality employees currently out of work, Chicago’s culinary community has stepped up to help feed its teams.
Chef Carols Gaytán and chef Daniel Espinoza at Comida Entre Amigos
Chef Carlos Gaytán and Sysco Chicago
Chef Carlos Gaytán partnered with Sysco Foods last week to transform his new River North restaurant, Tzuco, into a donation base for Comida Entre Amigos (Meals Amongst Friends). Chefs including Jose Sosa of Gibsons Italia and Daniel Espinoza of Cantina Laredo joined Gaytán to provide groceries like produce, bread, protein and other meal essentials donated by Sysco Chicago to restaurant employees out of work. In addition, Gaytán has been putting his cooking expertise to good use by cooking meals daily for his employees and their families. Gift cards are available for future visits at tzuco.com, and for every $100 purchased in gift cards, $20 will go to the Tzuco Employee Relief Fund.
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group
The hospitality company behind 15 concepts including Roots Handmade Pizza and Utopian Tailgate partnered up with the LEE Initiative, a program that turns restaurants across the country into relief centers, to transform West Town Bakery & Diner into a base for restaurant employees. Every day of the week, West Town Bakery & Diner is serving free meals and groceries to laid off restaurant employees and those who have had a reduction in hours or pay. In addition, the Fifty/50 sports bar (2047 W. Division St.) is serving 400 free meals to anyone (not just restaurant employees) from 4PM-6:30PM Tuesdays through Sundays. Donations to the LEE Inititiative at West Town Bakery & Diner can be made at leeiniative.org.
Chef Rick Bayless and US Foods
After an anonymous $250,000 donation, the Frontera Grill chef quickly launched a program to keep Chicago restaurant employees and their families fed. Twice a week, Bayless and his staff are building 400 boxes of fresh vegetables, meat, bread eggs and more to distribute. This gives him the opportunity to employ 15 laid off workers to build the boxes, then distribute them to other restaurants in the city like Antique Taco and Honey Butter Fried Chicken to then distribute to their own laid-off employees. He also launched Frontera Now, where he does Facebook Live cooking demos almost every day. Gift cards are available for future use at rickbayless.com.
Bonhomme Hospitality Group
The team behind Beatnik and Celeste is supporting its nearly 400 “Bonhommies” by donating all proceeds from gift card purchases to its employees. The campaign, entitled Miss Your Face, allows the community to experience dinner at one of Bonhomme’s restaurants in the future while supporting unemployed restaurant staff. Bonhomme is also providing meals for its staff and any affiliated employees like DJs and entertainers to bring home to their families. Each meal is made in the Beatnik kitchen in bulk so employees can take home food for at least three days. Gift cards available at bonhommegroup.com.
Photography by: courtesy of Tzuco