ELMSFORD, Westchester County (WABC) -- A coalition of Westchester County-based chefs and restaurateurs are coming together to support their workers and communities in response to the coronavirus crisis.
They are recruiting chefs, raising money, accepting corporate donations of food and supplies, and mobilizing to assist in providing meals to thousands of people with what they are calling the Million Gallon Challenge.
Restaurants and food service businesses have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, and the implications for the industry and individual businesses are as unknown as the duration and severity of the measures being put into place to combat the virus' spread.
The implications for thousands, even millions of food service workers are more certain however, and the news isn't good. In an industry with so many subsistence wage earners, living hand-to-mouth, as layoffs and furloughs begin en-mass, workers will be without wages, and in need, in very short order.
Unwilling to sit idle, led by chef Eric Korn and restaurateur Louie Lanza, a growing group of chefs, restaurant owners and businesses from Westchester County and beyond are rising to meet this challenge.
Their goal is to provide food security for their communities, and especially for restaurant and food service workers.
"When there's an emergency, when there's a disaster, we cook, this is what we do," Korn said. "When 9/11 happened, when Katrina happened, when Sandy happened, we ran in, and we cooked. We want to mobilize our brothers and sisters, and give them purpose, and help them with the tools to assist their own people, and everyone who is going to be in need."
The goal of the initiative is to get chefs in their local area, and elsewhere, to take food in their restaurants, and food from suppliers, and cook soup to fill the food need for people that will shortly be hit by the economic blowback of this health crisis.
Korn and Lanza are challenging the food service industry to begin now, to prepare for the need that is just around the corner, by cooking one million gallons of soup.
"We've begun to cook soup, it makes sense for so many reasons," Korn said. "It's safe, we boil soup, and freeze and store it in quart containers. It makes logistic sense, it's easy to store and move, it makes health sense, it can be boiled to be reheated, so we know it will be safe to eat, and besides, when someone is sick, you give them soup. I know it makes sense because it's a tradition as old as grandmothers."
Lanza, owner of a group of restaurants in Northern Westchester, has committed $100,000 from the Lanza Family Foundation, and the chefs say donations of money, food and supplies are beginning to pour.
"We are going to come through this together," Lanza said. "We reached out to Feeding Westchester right off the bat, because we knew we would benefit from their logistics experience, getting food to people. In addition to all their expertise, they immediately came back and offered product, they have made bulk ingredients available. We're getting started right now. We're already hearing from people in need, as well as people who want to help."
The organization has quickly gained support from local chefs and businesses, including chefs such as Mogan Anthony, Michael Anastacio, Scott Frantagelo, Navjot Aurora, and JJ Johnson; restaurateurs Demetri Vourliotis, Arlene Perrot, Joe Bueti, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co, and many more.
To register to help, to make donations, and for more information, visit MillionGallons.com.