Taking too long? Close loading screen.
Connect with us

Food

How Community Gardens Became Outlets of Innovation for Former Restaurant Workers

Published

on

Many New York City hospitality workers — thousands of whom remain out of work or are struggling financially, and a growing number of whom are food insecure themselves — are nevertheless finding ways to support their local community gardens, lifelines for many neighborhoods, using skills honed in kitchens. And though many have prioritized community-oriented work long before the pandemic, now with added time on their hands, the gardens provide a way for chefs to embed more deeply in their neighborhoods and learn even more about what kind of food support is actually needed.

Some are raising funds for the greenspaces with cooking pop-ups, incorporating produce from community gardens onto their menus, conducting mutual-aid meal drop-offs, or volunteering their time to harvest the grounds. Along the way, chefs are especially now finding that the cooperative, non-hierarchical model of community gardens are a welcome respite from the way the city’s restaurant kitchens have historically been run.

Chef Tara Thomas started volunteering at Phoenix Community Garden in Ocean Hill-Brownsville at the beginning of the pandemic, an area particularly plagued by unequal access to grocery options. Thomas previously had several hospitality projects in the works, including helping to open a cafe inside a new boutique hostel from retail-slash-coffee shop Sincerely, Tommy owner Kai Avent-Deleon; a new bar project with clothing store The Break in Greenpoint; and a “solar-powered cafe project” called Premium Blend in Clinton Hill. All of the projects have been put on hold due to the pandemic.

After volunteering multiple times a week at Phoenix, she started getting involved with helping curate their Saturday market stand with the goal of bringing higher-quality items that tapped into her culinary world connections, such as L’Imprimerie baked goods. “People in the community were asking for bread,” she says. “EBT can be really oppressive with what people have access to, so I wanted to make sure there were more options.” She’s even collaborated with Tart Vinegar, using crimson clovers harvested at the garden, with the bottles raising funds for Phoenix.

A representative for Phoenix, Mark Leger, tells Eater that he was energized by the fact that the garden has gained more volunteers than ever during COVID. Many of the volunteers formerly worked in restaurants.

“Our garden has never been more immaculate and weed-free,” Leger says. “I’m sometimes almost struggling to find things for our volunteers to do. Luckily, due to the fact that we already had a year-round food box program, when we were called upon to scale up [during the pandemic], few other gardens had operations that could do that. So we were really set up to serve our community.”

Community gardens recently inspired a bake sale, too. Prior to the pandemic, chef Diane Chang had packed up her catering business, Eating Po-Po’s, and moved to Mexico City with the intent to open her first-ever restaurant called An-An. But as many stories now go, those dreams were put on pause.

Suddenly unemployed and back in Bed-Stuy, she began hosting pop-ups again to raise funds for causes that align with her vision for restaurants: one that uses cooking as an extension of compassion. A recent cake pop-up, for which she made black sesame slices with a pineapple molasses jam, had proceeds that went to fund Phoenix’s efforts to ensure elderly community members are getting fed, especially important during COVID.

A slice of darkly colored cake laid on a green and yellow serving platter in the shape of three corncobs
Eating Po-Po’s black sesame pineapple molasses jam cake
Courtesy of Emma Orlow

Likewise, at Hunky Dory, working with Crown Heights’ Imani Community Garden is not only a sustainable means for owner Claire Sprouse to reduce her restaurant’s waste, but also an opportunity for flavor potential. A recent New York Times article detailed how, when Sprouse stops by to drop scraps off for the community garden’s chickens, she’s always sure to check out what edible flowers or herbs are available. “We made a soft serve with chocolate mint and donated 50 cents from each cone back to the garden,” she told the publication of her relationship to the greenspace that she’s had since opening, a part of her larger sustainability-driven mission for the eatery.

In Bushwick, a new free meal initiative called Cafe Forsaken from former hospitality workers Leanne Tran, Raina Robinson, and Moonui Choi, also incorporates community gardens into its supply ecosystem. Operating out of the hip neighborhood bar Honey’s, Cafe Forsaken initially began making meals for essential workers at the beginning of the pandemic and has since expanded to other groups of people in need.

Together, the trio has prepared thousands of meals, working with community gardens — such as Phoenix and Bushwick City Farms, as well as the Ridgewood mutual aid space the Woodbine — in the process. They’ve used the gardens as drop-off sites and have used their produce, complemented with herbs grown on Honey’s rooftop and rescued items from food supplier, Natoora, which neighbors the bar, as well as Smallhold and Treiber Farms.

Though the team’s inclination is to create nourishing dishes that skew more “experimental,” visiting the gardens while the free food is being distributed has helped them really understand what the community wants, rather than trying to impose their own taste preferences upon them.

“It’s such a fine balance—we have flavor notes we want to hit and I want it to look just as beautiful as anything we’d do in a different kind of pop-up,” says Choi. “I don’t think that should be a luxury. Everyone deserves that.”

Cafe Forsaken, Chang, Thomas, and Sprouse’s work are a part of a wave of potential blueprints for a new kind of hospitality world — such as DeVonn Francis’s pop-up and the upcoming Auxilio Space and Daughter coffee shop. The owners hope to lead with more empathy and equity, taking cues from the sustainable safe havens that community gardens have been for so many.

Disclosure: This author has worked for Eating Po-Po’s in the past.

Source

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Food

The Eater Guide on How to Help During the Crisis

Published

on

Not all that long ago it seemed like if the pandemic weren’t exactly over by now, then at least the worst of it would be. But the summer didn’t make things any simpler. Cases continued to spread, and fires and hurricanes ravaged the West and Gulf Coast. As the weather turned colder, more states began allowing indoor activities and face-to-face school. As a result, the virus appears to be surging once more. It is increasingly clear that not only will thousands more Americans likely die as a direct result of COVID-19 by the end of 2020, but the mass misery of the economic devastation it has unleashed — suffering disproportionately endured by Black and Latinx communities — will not lift anytime soon. 

Benefits like the federal $600 a week unemployment expansion ran out or contracted for more than 25 million Americans in July and the federal government has failed to agree on the terms of a new aid package. Organizations that provide food and housing assistance to low-income people across the country, already strained by the last several months of the pandemic and the government’s appallingly incompetent — and at times malevolent — response, are scrambling to meet a tidal wave of need. As roughly 40 percent of restaurants on the brink of closing forever, programs that aid people in the food industry are also seeking further support so they can continue to provide assistance to worker who remain unemployed or underemployed. Groups representing Indigenous communities, undocumented immigrants, farmworkers, and people of color are also mobilizing to get assistance to marginalized people and lay a foundation for a more resilient food system — because while it’s an extraordinary time of need, it’s also not new. 

Hunger and poverty have always been the U.S.’s most shameful open secrets. Despite being the wealthiest country in the world, as of 2018 more than 13 percent of people in the U.S. lived below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau, while a full 78 percent of U.S. workers lived paycheck to paycheck. The pandemic and its economic fallout have put those statistics into ever starker relief, as the nation’s working class and its poorest residents have faced the largest health burden from the virus. Several studies have estimated that pandemic-related job losses and increased food costs have roughly doubled food insecurity in the U.S., and No Kid Hungry estimates that one quarter of children around the country could face food insecurity in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus. 

In this guide, Eater has identified a range of programs, organizations, and charities fighting hunger, developing sustainable food networks, and providing support to the roughly 31 million people who are unemployed or are working less than they’d like to be due to this global medical disaster. These are places that are stepping in to do work in their communities where governments and elected officials have left people behind. Collected here are opportunities for giving and volunteering in and around the United States and its territories, at both the national and the local level, as well as in the U.K. Editors have done their best to vet the charities included here, but it’s always important to make sure when you give money or time that the organization you’re supporting aligns with your values and has a transparent, proven track record. If you only have time or resources to give, give it, but monetary donations — especially those offered over an extended period — can be even more impactful because charities tend to know where the greatest need is. If you’ve chosen a group and aren’t sure what’s the best way to help, it’s worth reaching out and asking.

Source

Continue Reading

Food

Trump Teases an ‘EPIC’ Election Night Party at His D.C. Hotel Despite Capacity Limits

Published

on

Despite D.C.’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, President Donald Trump’s campaign has teased plans to host a party for election night on Tuesday, November 3, at the Trump International Hotel downtown. Fundraising emails from Donald Trump Jr. include details on a “sweepstakes” to fly a supporter to D.C. for a party described in all-caps as “EPIC,” “ELECTRIC,” and “INCREDIBLE.”

Under D.C.’s Phase 2 reopening restrictions, mass gatherings are capped at a maximum capacity of 50 people. Restaurants are still limited to half-capacity seating with no standing and no countertop service from bartenders. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says she wasn’t aware of plans for the party until Monday, October 26, Washingtonian reports.

The location of the election night party is unclear, but the opulent hotel has multiple ballrooms and event spaces. The hotel includes a location of celebrity chef David Burke’s BLT Prime steakhouse. Lobby-level bar Benjamin serves $23 glasses of sangria and $120 seafood towers. Nearby, more affordable pub Harry’s has already seen pro-Trump crowds openly flouting mask requirements and other protocols meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. After he survived a case, Trump told Americans, “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

On election night four years ago, the recently opened hotel was the site of an impromptu and raucous gathering for supporters watching the numbers roll in on large TVs framing its gold bar. The controversial Pennsylvania Avenue hotel near the White House has been sold out for weeks on and around Election Day at rates going for $1,200 a night, the Associated Press reports.

The fine print in the sweepstakes notes the campaign can move the date of the trip and the location of the hotel stay at its discretion. The prize also includes a photo op with Trump. The supposedly randomly chosen winner, who is subject to a background check, will be responsible for all ground transportation, meals, and all other expenses during the duration of the trip.

Source

Continue Reading

Food

Eater Staffers Pick Their Favorite Instant Pot Recipes

Published

on

Now that we are over the sourdough-and-regrowing-scallions part of the pandemic, but in no way over the actual pandemic, we must prepare for The Hunkering. Every winter is a time for stews, roasts, and hearty pasta bakes, but this winter it feels extra important, both because most of us are going to be indoors way more than any previous season, and have completely lost the energy to do anything but throw a bunch of stuff in a pot. Which obviously means it’s time to break out the Instant Pots.

A few years ago it seemed like electric multicookers, especially the Instant Pot, may have just been a fad. But the fact that in one appliance you can cook anything from soup to pudding to bread makes it pretty ideal for cooking during quarantine fatigue. Eater’s staffers rounded up our favorite go-to Instant Pot recipes, perfect for the many nights when you’re in the mood for something delicious, but you know, wanting to do as little as possible to make it happen. And as Eater Dallas and Eater Houston editor Amy McCarthy noted, you could always go with “just some fucking chicken breasts,” and let the machine do the rest.


Beef barley soup: This is the first that comes to mind. It’s basically a textbook version of this classic soup, and perfect for chilly weather. It’s low-lift, reasonably quick to put together, and freezes well. — Missy Frederick, cities director

Dakbokkeumtang: I make this recipe when I’m craving a savory chicken dish with the volume turned up. All that delicious flavor comes from the sauce. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and spicy from gochujang and sugar. Doenjang and oyster sauce adds another layer of depth. Typically to make this Korean comfort dish, you would need to watch over the pot, making sure that the chicken pieces are soaking up the sauce. But everything is done in the Instant Pot, so the result is fall-off-the-bone, tender chicken with potatoes that just break apart with no effort at all. Also, who doesn’t love a dump-everything-and-press-the-button recipe?! — James Park, social media manager

Mac and cheese: I make this one once a week when I’m lazy and cooking sounds hard. I use whatever cheese is in the fridge, add a little brown mustard to the mix, and usually skip the milk or add it at the very end. Would suggest you grate the mozzarella or it becomes a blob. — Brenna Houck, editor at Eater Detroit

Chinese poached whole chicken: Basically, I get a whole chicken every week, and I got tired of roasting it. This recipe is a really easy — not entirely foolproof, but a good enough way to poach a chicken whole in about 40 to 50 minutes, with not too much work on my part. You can use it specifically as white-cut chicken over rice with, say, a ginger scallion sauce, but just as often I pull the meat off the carcass and use it for meals throughout the week. Two caveats: You really do need an instant-read thermometer to tell when it’s done, and I find it’s much better to salt the chicken 24 hours in advance (I use the method in Salt Fat Acid Heat), so it has enough taste. And after poaching the chicken and pulling off the meat, I often toss the carcass right back into its cooking liquid, cook it on manual for another 60 minutes, and end up with a bunch of chicken stock. — Meghan McCarron, special correspondent

Kosha mangsho: This is a traditional Bengali goat or lamb stew in a heavily spiced, yogurt gravy, and it’s intensely rich and comforting. This recipe uses a pressure cooker to save time, but on the offchance you landed on this page and don’t have an Instant Pot or the like, you can still just simmer it in a large pot. — Jaya Saxena, staff writer

Lemongrass coconut chicken: The sauce is unbelievably tasty for just a few ingredients and it comes together so quickly. The labor to flavor ratio makes it one of my go-tos when I get bored with cooking or can’t be bothered to put in much effort. It’s also great over rice or any other grain. — Brittanie Shey, Eater Houston and Eater Dallas associate editor

Basic chicken noodle soup: I make a basic chicken noodle soup in the Instant Pot probably every week in the winter: The base recipe is two chicken breasts, a carton and a half of broth, a few cups (I eyeball it) roughly chopped diced celery, carrot, and onion, and whatever spices you want. Cook everything together on high pressure for 25 mins. You can quick-release the pressure and remove the chicken breasts, and shred them — while you’re shredding, set the pot’s saute function so the broth remains boiling and add egg noodles. Once the noodles are cooked, dump the shredded chicken back in and you’re done! This is perfect because frozen chicken works just as well (and at the same cook time), and you can experiment with any leafy greens at the end (throw them in when you add the noodles) and any noodle types you want. — Erin DeJesus, lead editor, Eater.com

Pork chile verde: This recipe is very good; I found it last year when I had a truckload of tomatillos from my garden. It is a great comfort food and works well as stew or tacos. — Brenna Houck, Editor at Eater Detroit

Source

Continue Reading

Trending