New York City restaurant puts competition aside to show compassion for out-of-work chefs

SOHO, Manhattan (WABC) -- A restaurant owner in Manhattan is inviting out-of-work chefs to come in and cook out of their kitchen.

Niche Niche in Soho, like all restaurants, is doing things differently than when it first opened.

"Niche Niche was a dinner party every night of the week," owner Ariel Arce said.

That dinner party doesn't work so well with limited indoor dining, but since December, Arce has been keeping the experience fresh by inviting guest chefs to work on their menu.

Some guest chefs have included Mary Attea who landed a job at the Musket Room a week before indoor dining shutdown.

And Austin Johnson who is planning to open a restaurant and needs a kitchen and space to work on his menu.

The guest chefs even get paid.

"We set a price together and then we pay them a chef's fee for the weekend or the period of time that they're here," Arce said.

Nicole Ponseca is the next guest chef.

"Fortunately I get to do this and I get to put a little coin in my pocket income at my restaurant, the revenue was reduced to 3% of what it was previously," Ponseca said.

In fact she closed her restaurant Maharlika to focus on her other restaurant, Jeepney, which is barely surviving.

And she lost her dad to COVID in December.

"The real reason why I'm even in restaurants is because of my pop," she said.

But the silver lining is that people in the industry, people like Arce, are putting aside competition for compassion.

"We're sharing actually our own trade secrets, if you will, of how we're going to not just survive but thrive -- there is a camaraderie in our industry that I've never seen before," Ponseca said.

"It's really helped us and it's helped them and we've been able to create something bigger and better than ourselves through it," Arce said.

The guest chef dinners are usually on Sundays and Mondays and prices range from $65-85.

And not only do the chefs get paid for their work, there are many dinners where a portion of the sales go to charitable causes.

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