When the impact of COVID-19 began to be felt around the country, thousands upon thousands of jobs in the restaurant industry were lost as employers closed indefinitely. While some restaurants were able to pivot to offer take-out and delivery quickly, often times this meant reduced hours for staff. Devastated by not knowing what to expect next, closures not only left industry workers without a way to pay their bills but also with no way to put food on their tables.
In response to the urgent need to assist restaurants workers more than ever, the mentoring program, The LEE Initiative founded by chef Edward Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek, stepped in along with Maker’s Mark and 18 restaurant partners across the country to offer help to those in need as part of the Restaurant Workers Relief Program.
Answering the Call
A call from famed San Francisco famed chef Daniel Patterson to two-time restaurateur and executive chef Nelson German proved to be a lifeline for individuals and their families in the Bay Area. German and his wife, May, own Oakland’s alaMar Kitchen & Bar in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, and like most, were forced to make the temporary service switch to take-out and delivery. Patterson’s call came with a recommendation to Lee for German and his team at alaMar to join the list of restaurants providing services as relief centers for workers who have been laid off or experiencing a reduction in hours and/or pay. Given his previous community work, the opportunity to make a difference during this unprecedented time aligned perfectly between alaMar and The LEE Initiative and now it is about serving and getting the word out.
We’re in This Together
Every Wednesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m., laid off and working restaurant workers are encouraged to stop by alaMar located at 100 Grand Avenue for hot to-go meals as well as essentials such as toilette paper and baby food (if needed) and some welcomed extras such as coffee. All they have to do is bring a current or previous paystub.
German acknowledges that at a time when many are panicking, knowing that they have a good meal coming can ease the stress. “The great thing about this too that we want to kind of push is that this is a family meal. It is not a menu from alaMar or just some fancy stuff, it is things that are cooked with love and is comforting,” the native New Yorker says.
The relief program at alaMar is an excellent example of businesses coming together for a greater good. Corporate donation partners include U.S. Food, Imperfect Produce and The Chef’s Warehouse. “A lot of well-known companies and even smaller companies who are rooted in Oakland have been very helpful in donating,” says German. Some of the companies he is referencing include Oakland’s Firebrand Artisan Breads, Sighthouse Coffee and the restaurant Chop Bar. German also notes that they received a recent donation from Niman Ranch, a favorite producer of beef when you want a great burger.
alaMar’s patio area serves as the relief center during hours of operation. “We haven’t done big numbers yet. The most we have done is probably about 70. We want to get more. We’re supposed to do 300 per day,” says German when asked about how many workers they are serving. He currently prepares the meals with his sous chef from the soon-to-be reopened cocktail bar Sobre Mesa. Together they have a pulse on what is needed and can adjust to meet the center’s 300 daily meal goal.
German clarifies that those eligible to receive a meal and essentials are not limited to just restaurant workers but anyone in foodservice, caterers and even fast food. If you have or had a hand in feeding others, this program is here to feed you. And the beauty of it all is that you can come back as often as you need to while the relief center is operating.
Taking careful precautions, the alaMar relief center is also accepting volunteers who are available to assist during distribution hours. Those interested in volunteering as well as in making donations can call the restaurant at 510-907-7555.
Those wanting to order take-out, delivery or curbside pickup that now includes cocktails to-go, check out the menu online at www.alamaroakland.com. You can follow alaMar on Twitter and Instagram for program and restaurant updates.
To find other restaurants across the country that are also participating such as in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans and Washington, DC, visit https://leeinitiative.org.
MORE RESTAURANT AND HOSPITALITY NEWS AND RESOURCES
New Food Delivery Platforms Aim to Do Better for Struggling Restaurants and Workers
Protect Your Employees’ Safety Through Worker’s Comp Insurance Through Cerity
How to Stabilize & Fortify Your Business in a COVID Economy