I remember after Katrina, when I had a food blog called “appetites” that focused primarily on fine-dining restaurants, thinking that the gig was up. I’d been happily writing about meals I had in those early days when there was so much uncertainty and many people questioned whether New Orleans would recover as a city, it seemed frivolous to be writing about food and restaurants.
But then a lot of people started to contact me asking whether their favorite restaurant was coming back or letting me know what was happening to a chef or restaurateur and I realized how important food and the restaurant industry is to the culture of New Orleans. When I got back to the city I started driving around and taking pictures of restaurants – open or not – and then doing what I could to disseminate information about how we were doing.
Because it turns out restaurants aren’t frivolous. Restaurants are central to the culture of New Orleans and critical to our economy. When I was evacuated in Tennessee in the weeks after Katrina, I felt guilty about not being here to help the immediate recovery. As soon as the travel ban was lifted, I was back, and I was doing what I could to publicize at least that part of our rebuilding.
So when a friend, Troy Gilbert, contacted me a week or so ago with an idea to help both restaurants and first responders, health care providers and others, I jumped at the chance to participate in what we’ve now launched as Chef’s Brigade.
We launched the website and the GoFundMe page less than a week ago, and we’ve been working hard to get things rolling. By the time you read this, our pilot Brigade of 10 restaurants will have started delivering 100 meals a day to the NOPD 3rd District, and a second Brigade is in the works to deliver 100 meals a day to local EMS personnel. From there we plan to expand to hospitals.
It’s been a lot of work, but I believe we’re going to do some good. It won’t save our restaurant industry, but we’re not the only people doing this sort of thing. I don’t have the time to identify all of the different groups working to help restaurants and feed people in need, but the Krewe of Red Beans have a GoFundMe page up and are kicking ass. F3 Nola is another group doing good work.
You might wonder why so many different groups are necessary; wouldn’t it be better to have one group so there’s no wasted effort? That’s a question I asked myself, but then I talked to a lot of restaurants and other folks and realized that the more people there are trying to do good, the more good we’ll do. There’s enough need on both ends of this equation – both the restaurants and the folks who need to be fed – that duplication of effort is not an issue. At least not now.
It is my fervent hope and I think I probably speak for everyone doing this sort of thing that our work will not be necessary very soon. It is my fear that our work will be necessary for quite a few weeks if not months.
This is a stressful time and a lot of people have very difficult financial situations. I know I do. If you can’t donate to a group doing things to address the current crisis, then perhaps consider sharing the message via social media, email, town crier or pony express.
We’ll come back from this eventually, because it’s what we do. Being careful now, though, means we’ll come back from this more rapidly than if we ignore the danger.
Stay safe and eat well.