These are dark times for the restaurant industry everywhere, but even in the midst of all the bad news, there are stories of solidarity and hope, of people coming together to support one another.
Chef Greg Baxtrom and restaurateur Max Katzenberg, owners of Brooklyn restaurants Olmsted and Maison Yaki are pointing the way out of this crisis by working to create a community of hospitality workers.
“We’re working on two fronts,” says Katzenberg on the phone from New York. “We’ve started a coalition of New York’s small business operators and the other we’ve partnered with Maker’s Mark and the Ed Lee Initiative, we’re going to flip Olmsted into a food bank for anyone in the industry.”
“Starting today you can come for a meal, you can pick up ingredients to cook for yourself during the week and whatever toiletries we can round-up.”
It’s one example of how hospitality workers are coming together at a local level to roll their sleeves up and help those in need, even though they may have been adversely affected by the crisis themselves.
“We’re unemployed also,” says Max. “This crisis affects all of us. It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together.”
It is said that you should never waste a crisis, and while this one represents immediate difficulties for millions of workers, Greg Baxtrom sees an opportunity to galvanize the restaurant industry.
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“We’re trying to create a community,” he says. “Create a resource for our operators and our workers to get back on their feet when this is all over.”
“We’re hoping to take the opportunity and build a community. We want a free exchange of ideas, we want to bring experts in the form of attorneys, human resources, Congressmen and very experienced operators, and distil that expertise so the mom and pop restaurants will have a fighting chance of reopening when the crisis ends.
New York Hospitality Coalition is pooling resources and working at a local level to make sure people have what they need to re-emerge from this crisis once it ends.
“There are fights on all levels here,” says Max. “The big-name chefs like Tom Colicchio, the celebrity TV guys, they have more access at the federal level, from what we’ve heard they’ve been able to hire lobbyists and make a go of it. At a state level, we’ve formed this coalition, we may have one set of skills, but someone else will have another, maybe someone will be the next-door neighbour of someone in congress. We just want to pool everyone’s resources and then distribute.”
“We’re going to make it through this."