Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

Photo: Tadek Kurpaski.
A sauropod at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Who doesn’t love a dinosaur — at least, now that dinosaurs are extinct? Wouldn’t it be fun to discover evidence of one like the people in today’s story? At the Washington Post, Dave Kindy reports that In recent years, a number of major dinosaur finds have occurred by happenstance.

“A diner sitting in the outdoor courtyard of a small restaurant in China’s Sichuan province happened to look down at the ground and spot something unusual. It appeared to be a dinosaur footprint.

“[In July], Chinese paleontologists confirmed that the diner was right. The depressions had in fact been left by two dinosaurs. …

“Using a 3D scanner, scientists determined that the tracks were made by sauropods — large herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and four legs. According to Lida Xing, a paleontologist at China University of Geosciences who led the team investigating the site, these footprints were probably made by the species Titanosauriformes. The footprints are about 22 inches long on average, and the dinosaurs probably measured about 26 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds, Xing told the Washington Post.

“While not an everyday occurrence, the discovery of dinosaur footprints happens on occasion in China — just not in urban environments.

“ ‘Sauropod tracks are not rare in Sichuan Basin … but they are very [rarely] found in restaurants in downtown,’ Xing said in an email. …

“But this wasn’t the first accidental discovery of dinosaur remnants in recent years. Take, for example, the case of Mark McMenamin, who was walking across the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst last year. He and his wife collected stones at a construction site, then later noticed one of them appeared to be a fossil. It was, in fact, the elbow bone of a 30-foot-long predatory dinosaur known as a neotheropod. …

“Then there was the discovery of a well-preserved dinosaur ‘corpse,’ unearthed by miners in Canada. While excavating at the Suncor Millennium Mine in Alberta in 2011, they stumbled upon the fossilized remains of a Nodosaurus, a heavily armored creature. … Displayed for the first time in 2017, it is considered one of the best-preserved dinosaur fossils ever found.

So complete are the remains that scientists at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta were able to examine the contents of its stomach, including twigs, leaves, mosses, pollen and spores.

“Last year, archaeologist Marie Woods was looking for clams on the beach in Yorkshire, England, when she spotted something unusual: the [footprint] of a species of theropod. A dinosaur similar to a Tyrannosaurus rex, this ancient reptile also stood on two legs and was carnivorous. It was the largest footprint of its kind ever found in that part of England, reported the Good News Network. …

“In 2011, paleontologists in China encountered a big rock with a fish fossil on the surface. They hauled it back to the lab, where it sat for about a year, according to New Scientist. Then the researchers decided to crack it open.

“To their amazement, they discovered inside the remains of a mother ichthyosaur [giving] birth to three babies. One was already out of the womb, another was halfway out, and the third was waiting for its chance.

“This fossil find altered the view of when dinosaurs began having live births. … Ichthyosaurs, which evolved from land-based creatures, proved that dinosaurs had moved on from egg-laying much earlier than previously believed.

“ ‘This land-style of giving birth is only possible if they inherited it from their land ancestors,’ one of the researchers told Live Science. ‘They wouldn’t do it if live birth evolved in water.’

“Back at the restaurant in Sichuan province, [the] owner was anxious that news of the primordial find would impact her business serving homestyle meals based on local cuisine. However, she has since embraced the media hype.

“ ‘She was initially concerned that she would attract a lot of curious people and affect the restaurant’s traditional customers,’ Xing wrote. ‘But now she understands the change and is ready to roll out some dinosaur track-themed treats.’ ”

I love the names of dinosaurs and how children can recite many of them at a very young age — their first introduction to ancient Greek. When John was five, he would chant dinosaur names to baby Suzanne to make her laugh. She thought they sounded funny.

More at the Post, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Stephen Humphries/Christian Science Monitor.
Chef Brandon Chrostowski (center) teaches trainees inside the kitchen for Edwins Too, one of his two French fine dining restaurants on the East Side of Cleveland.

When you take a wrong path in life, does it have to determine everything that happens later? At the Christian Science Monitor, Stephen Humphries writes about a chef who is making sure that some people are successful when they start over.

“Brandon Chrostowski is telling his origin story for probably the thousandth time. He’s pacing the stage of a local high school, holding his microphone with the confidence of a rock star. Mr. Chrostowski is a distinguished chef – he was a restaurateur semifinalist in the 2022 James Beard awards – and founder of a Cleveland restaurant with a philanthropic mission. Yet he’s ambivalent about all the acclaim. He’s tasted what it’s like to be stripped of dignity. At 18 he was arrested for fleeing and eluding the police. He and some friends had been in a car with drugs they intended to sell.

“ ‘I learned a lot of things. One, the dehumanization in the criminal justice system,’ he tells the students at Gilmour Academy. ‘Also, the idea of freedom. You don’t really know what freedom is until you lose it.’

“A lenient judge decided against sentencing him to prison. Mr. Chrostowski has never forgotten that he was fortunate not to serve a 5-to-10-year sentence. It’s the reason he launched Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute on Cleveland’s East Side. 

“What makes Edwins unique isn’t just its French cuisine, but its workers – they’re formerly incarcerated adults. Over six months, those in training learn skills for employment in the culinary world. More than that, Mr. Chrostowski tries to draw out a sense of self-worth in those who’ve served time by showing them how to attain excellence. 

‘The single hardest thing we have to do at Edwins is really build esteem in someone that has lost that, or that sense of humanity, through incarceration,’ says Mr. Chrostowski.

“Hours before giving his speech at the high school, Mr. Chrostowski strides into a kitchen where two trainees are singing along to a Bobby Womack tune on the radio. Tying a half apron around his waist, the chef quickly assesses a hunk of braised beef inside a pot as large as a bassinet. …

“As Mr. Chrostowski shares tips with Richie, he picks up a knife and demonstrates how to slice asparagus. In 2017, Edwins was the subject of an Oscar-nominated short documentary titled Knife Skills. …

“Abdul El-Amin enrolled in the program in June after being incarcerated for 20 years. ‘When you come here, it is sincere. You’re welcome. You can feel it,’ he says after his first two weeks of training. He adds, ‘I’m seeing so many other opportunities that I didn’t think about when I was incarcerated.’

“That’s not to say the program isn’t demanding. Over 2,000 people have trained at Edwins since its opening in 2013. Of those, only 600 have graduated because most drop out, often within the first two weeks. (They’re always welcome to reapply.) The program boasts a 95% employment rate for its alumni, and fewer than 1% of graduates are re-incarcerated. Star pupils have gone on to work in restaurants across America and even in France.

“ ‘[Mr. Chrostowski] really doesn’t care what walk of life you’re from, who you are, what you’ve done,’ says William Brown, a staff member at Cleveland’s Community Assessment & Treatment Services, a rehabilitation organization that enrolls promising individuals in the Edwins program. ‘He wants to see you succeed. And he will go the extra mile.’ 

“Mr. Chrostowski has a hectic daily schedule. During peak restaurant rush hours, the chef admits to hurling pans in frustration, but they’re not aimed at anyone. … He pursues the exacting standards he learned as an apprentice at restaurants such as Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Le Cirque in New York, and Lucas Carton in Paris. He rose fast. But he’s never forgotten his first break. In the late 1990s, a Detroit chef named George Kalergis took him in while he was still on parole. 

“Years later, Mr. Kalergis called from Detroit with bad news. A man named Quentin, who’d learned the rudiments of restaurant cooking alongside Mr. Chrostowski, had been stabbed to death. …

“ ‘I started to think, “How is it possible I’m here, and others are not?” ‘ says Mr. Chrostowski. … He wanted to help others, just as Chef Kalergis had helped him. But it took another decade of working in restaurants – including a move to Cleveland in 2008 – before he was able to raise the money to fulfill his vision.

“Mr. Chrostowski came up with the name, which is shorthand for ‘Education wins.’ Edwin is also the chef’s middle name. A few years after moving to Cleveland, he opened his restaurant in a historic, racially diverse area called Shaker Square. In 2020, he expanded by opening a second restaurant, Edwins Too, on the opposite side of the town’s leafy square. He’s also launched a French bakery and a butchery. The expansions have helped the area become a dining destination. 

“Just off the main street in Shaker Square, Mr. Chrostowski proudly shows off his latest project, which will become a child care center. ‘We’ve raised about $250,000 for a family center or day care,’ he says. ‘Free day care for staff and students, because 80% of our students with children don’t finish. It’s a big number and we want to change that.’

“The chef also wants to help outside Ohio. In April he traveled to his ancestral home of Poland to cook for refugees fleeing Ukraine. He’s also created a 30-hour curriculum and distributed it on 400,000 tablets to prisons in the United States. Dee and Jimmy Haslam, co-owners of the Cleveland Browns football team, will pay for transportation for anyone in the U.S. who completes the virtual instruction and applies to join the Edwins program.”

More at the Monitor, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Mile Marker One.
Igloos at Mile Marker One restaurant in Ipswich, Mass.

Plenty of people I know are eating indoors at restaurants again, but I’m still too Covid-phobic. I want to support restaurants by doing takeout, but I am not going to take off a mask indoors unless I know that everyone in the building is triple vaccinated.

One innovation during the pandemic has been the tent for outdoor dining. Although some of those tents look too enclosed for your faithful hypochondriac, I thought it was interesting to read what Carolina A. Miranda had to say at the Los Angeles Times about their evolution.

She wrote, “Over the course of the last year, I’ve eaten enchiladas in a party tent. I’ve gotten COVID-tested in a party tent. I spent a night dancing to house music in a party tent. I’ve seen party tents double as retail shops, church naves, gymnasiums and outdoor living rooms. …

“Last year, as the pandemic isolated us into our respective domestic cocoons, designers took to their AutoCAD to imagine a brave new world of design ‘solutions’ for the pandemic. These included wearable head-to-thigh social distancing shields and space-age cones [But] we’ve learned infinitely more about how to rethink the design of our buildings from the pandemic’s most prominent workhorse: the party tent. …

“It can be staked into soil or anchored on pavement. The simplest models, a standard canopy, can shield you from the sun; more protective ones come with collapsible walls that can be adapted to the weather as needed. …

“The party tent is symbolic of all the other improvised architectures that have arisen during the pandemic: the parking lots turned into eating spaces with twinkle lights and umbrellas; the wooden dining platforms crafted out of plywood and two-by-fours; the izakaya on La Brea whose collapsible walls are actually transparent shower curtains. In Echo Park, Misty Mansouri, the owner of the Lady Byrd Café, has turned an impractical triangle of concrete on her property into an al fresco dining room courtesy of an ebullient agglomeration of Christmas trees and portable greenhouses employed as individual dining pods.

“Temporary structures can even be found in hyper-glam iterations — like the space-age, vented dining pod at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills. A 6,500-square-foot modular dining room constructed in the middle of Canon Drive, it was created by VX Design Solutions, a custom fabrication studio, and Choura, an event production company, and was assembled in less than a week. That structure opened in March 2021 and is still going strong. ‘We fill it up every single day,’ says Steve Scott Springer, the restaurant’s general manager.

“Party tents may not be around for the long haul, but they have qualities that are worth integrating into the hardscape of our cities. They offer flexibility and permeability and serve as a reminder that in the mild Southern California climate we don’t always need to encase ourselves in hermetically sealed cells of HVAC. If well-building design issues such as fresh air and sunlight had been gaining currency before the pandemic, COVID-19 and its many variants have made it a matter of urgency.

“ ‘Being able to kick open the doors makes people who are inside those doors feel so much better,’ says architect Oonagh Ryan, founding principal of ORA, an L.A.-based studio that has worked extensively in the commercial and hospitality sectors. ‘And operable windows, those are key.’

“One of ORA’s most recent projects is the design of Agnes, a popular Pasadena comfort food outpost that also contains a cheese shop. Housed in a 1920s stable once employed by the Pasadena fire department, the bulk of the restaurant’s design was conceived before COVID, but a number of programmatic choices made since the pandemic began have helped make the space more resilient.

“The key is flexibility. The street-facing side has operable windows and the rear of the dining room has sliding doors that can be propped open to connect with a patio out back, drawing fresh air through the building. A private dining room likewise opens to the elements. The patio, which harbors additional seating, is protected by a weatherproof canopy that can be pulled back when the weather is mild. It’s an outdoor space that can be used come rain or come shine. And the furniture isn’t fixed, so it can be reconfigured into different densities. …

“When the restaurant opened in June, the surge of COVID-19 infections had tapered off and indoor dining had resumed. But the pandemic made the coming months wildly uncertain, meaning that the design needed to be responsive to shifting health directives. ‘If the pandemic was still going strong,’ Ryan says, ‘we had a plan for how we could rearrange everything into more retail.’ ”

“If the pandemic was still going strong.” Is it? Who knows?

You get several free articles at the LA Times, here, if you’re not a subscriber. I think you will enjoy the variety of party tents in the photos.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Kara Holsopple, The Allegheny Front.
Stephanie Alexander at the Horn Point Lab oyster hatchery. Lawn chemicals pollute Chesapeake Bay. Oysters fight back.

Today I want to expand on my 2019 blog post about New York City’s Billion Oyster Project, which uses restaurants’ discarded oyster shells to fight erosion in the harbor.

According to a July broadcast of Living on Earth [LOE], Pittsburgh restaurants are doing something similar. In this case, it’s to counteract pollution caused by fertilizer that runs into Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.

LOE’S BOBBY “BASCOMB: The Chesapeake Bay is routinely inundated with fertilizer runoff from the surrounding watershed in parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The result is algae blooms that suck up oxygen in the water and create dead zones for most other forms of life in the Bay. Oysters are particularly vulnerable, but as Kara Holsopple of the Allegheny Front reports, some local groups have come up with a novel way to help oysters recover.

“KARA HOLSOPPLE: Jessica Lewis says shucking an oyster is like picking a lock.

“JESSICA LEWIS: You press down and then you just wiggle, pop it open and, the abductor muscle right there. You clean that. …

“HOLSOPPLE: Lewis says they go through about three to four hundred oysters here a week from the East and West coasts. This oyster is from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay — and its top and bottom shell are going back there… Lewis and her staff toss the spent shells in a 35 gallon barrel with a screw-on lid, located in the trash area on the ground floor of the building. …

“About once a month a truck picks up the old shells from this and six other participating restaurants in Pittsburgh, and drives them more than 250 miles to a staging area just across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. From there, the oyster shells from Pittsburgh and ones collected from Maryland, Virginia and the D.C. area are taken to a site at the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, for processing.

“KARIS KING: So here you’re looking at about 7,000 tons of clean shell.

“HOLSOPPLE: Karis King is with Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit which works to increase oyster numbers in the Chesapeake Bay. We’re standing at the base of a mountain of gray shells. They’ve been dumped into a machine that’s like a modified potato hopper, which sorts the shells. … Smaller fragments of broken shell fall away as a conveyor belt deposits the half shells into wire cages or piles where they’re cured for a year. …

“KING: Even with all the shell that we do recycle, and that we also purchase from shucking houses, we still don’t have enough to do large scale restoration, at the rate that we could.

“HOLSOPPLE: That’s because of the scale of the problem. Stephanie Alexander manages the Horn Point Lab oyster hatchery. …

“ALEXANDER: We’ve pretty much wiped the oyster out to less than 1 percent of historic levels. So we started this restoration effort where we’re using a hatchery to produce spat on shell to put back into the bay so we can kind of help jump start Mother Nature.

“HOLSOPPLE: The concept is pretty simple: Scientists here at the lab produce baby oysters from adults harvested from the bay, nurture the microscopic larvae with a custom algae diet, then get them attach to the recycled, treated oyster shells. That’s the ‘spat on shell.’ In practice, it’s a lot harder than it sounds…

“Ben Malmgren is an intern here, a student from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“BEN MALMGREN: Right now we’re placing the oysters out on the spawning table where we are going to simulate river conditions that are ideal for spawning.

“HOLSOPPLE: The saltiness and temperature of the water in the shallow black basins has to be just right. Malmgren places the oysters in a grid formation, so it’s easier to separate the males from the females…

“MALMGREN: Because if we just let them spawn out on the table all these eggs are gonna go down to the into the drain. So once we see a female and we’ll we’ll know she’s a female by she’ll clap her top and bottom shell together and we’ll see a plume of eggs come out. …

“HOLSOPPLE: Even in the lab, nature is in charge. Stephanie Alexander says it was a slow summer…a lot of rain meant the adult oysters have lived with lower salinity levels, and they’re stressed. Out in the bay, the water is warmer, meaning the spat on shell might have a harder time growing that second shell, and over the years, forming the clusters that create oyster reefs.

“STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: When one thing gets out of whack everything else is going to kind of follow. So we’re trying to get the oysters back into balance so then hopefully everything else will follow as well. …

“Oysters are the vacuum cleaners or the kidneys of the bay and they just suck the water in, they decide if it’s food or not food. But no matter what it is that will remove it from the water column and that’s how they vacuum the bay up and clean it.

“HOLSOPPLE: Because of this superpower, oyster aquaculture is a best management practice identified by the regional partnership that oversees cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Some of the spat raised at the Horn Point Lab will make its way to oyster farmers, and those are the oysters on a half shell that are served in restaurants. But the majority of the spat will help rebuild oyster reefs, creating habitat for fish, and restoring the ecosystem.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Sierra Mar via Forbes.
A California restaurant has initiated impressive air-quality controls post-pandemic.

In the beginning, we were wiping everything down with bleach. I know I kept sharing a video from a doctor who’d worked with Ebola protocols. And for quite a while, I was treating all my groceries as if they could kill me.

Then we learned Covid was contracted mainly through the air, in invisible droplets from people breathing. So now that it’s possible once more to eat indoors in restaurants, the wary among us are asking how well restaurants are doing on ventilation.

At the Washington Post, Chris MooneyAaron Steckelberg and Jake Crump report on a few restaurants in California.

“When California’s Monterey County allowed restaurants to reopen in March, indoor dining returned to the cliff-perched Sierra Mar, known for its spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

“The Big Sur restaurant now featured some new pandemic touches: 18 tabletop mini-purifiers, 10 precisely distributed HEPA air purifiers, an upgraded heating and air conditioning system, and four sensors measuring the air quality in real time.

“The bar was closed, and at a table in the back sat someone new: an engineering professor whose specialty is air quality.

‘If this is going to work right, the ventilation keeps up with the head count,’ explained the expert, Mark Hernandez of the University of Colorado.

“Every 15 minutes, he would walk to the front desk to check how many people were now seated indoors. Then he would compare that number to the air’s current levels of carbon dioxide and particulate matter, to see how much exhaled breath lingered in the air and what expelled aerosols it could contain.

“Indoor dining remains risky, as the pandemic rages on, propelled by highly transmissible new coronavirus variants that threaten gains from widespread vaccination. The virus has been brutal for the restaurant industry. … Thousands of restaurants already have shut down permanently.

“Those struggling to hold on are considering a broad range of air ventilation and filtration techniques to keep customers and staff safe. Sierra Mar’s new air-quality experiment, partly funded by a regional foundation, cost about $30,000. That’s a hefty expenditure that might be out of reach for many restaurants running on thin profit margins.

“Mike Freed considers it a worthy investment. He’s the managing partner of the Post Ranch Inn, the exclusive resort that contains Sierra Mar and caters to an affluent eco-conscious traveler. Since the setup, if successful, could potentially be utilized in other restaurants and indoor spaces, the Washington Post asked several experts on indoor air to review the restaurant layout and strategy. They agreed it should work to make the dining experience considerably safer, while noting 100 percent safety is unattainable.

“These experiments in the restaurant industry may usher in a new data-driven relationship with indoor air, with people able to judge where they dine, vacation and work based on the quality and transparency of real-time readings. …

“[One] interior air circulation has been designed, says Hernandez, as a ‘seat belt in a place where you can’t control your peers … This is long overdue for public places.’

“At a time when its vista is clouded by recurrent wildfires, the Post Ranch Inn now displays the restaurant’s air quality updates on its website, so diners can time their escape around what they want to eat — and breathe.”

Check the Post, here, for a variety of new air-quality gizmos. For example: “An air purifier about the size of a water bottle [that] sits on each table. It can’t clean a lot of air quickly, but it can direct filtered air in a small area. And it runs on batteries.

“While the portable air purifier can be tilted toward a person’s face, Hernandez positioned it straight up, to reduce the risk of unmasked diners infecting others by breathing across the table. Instead, the device, made by Wynd and marketed as a personal air purifier, should push any shared or unfiltered air aloft”!

I keep thinking how the the pandemic has created new opportunities for obscure products like that and has also made rock stars out of certain kinds of engineering professors. Those are among the changes we’ll keep.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Yenvy Pham.
The owners of a Seattle Vietnamese restaurant, Phở Bắc, came up with the idea of a “Pho Now” cup and a “Pho Later” meal kit during the pandemic. “Survival mode is in our blood,” says Yenvy Pham.

I like to have a pipeline of possible articles in case I draw a blank some morning. But after Covid changed so much, it seemed like a good idea to check whether last year’s stories were still relevant. So I did a search on the restaurant in today’s article and found that the Covid innovations described here really worked.

In June 2020, Ashley Nguyen wrote at the Lily that Seattle’s Phở Bắc pivoted fast. “On March 13, Yenvy Pham went to New York City to celebrate the grand opening of her friend’s new Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon Social. But as the coronavirus spread, Helen Nguyen — Saigon Social’s chef and owner — decided to cancel.

“By the time Pham flew home to Seattle on March 16, Washington Gov. Jay [Inslee] had ordered restaurants and bars to cease in-person dining. Pham and her siblings, who own and operate several restaurants called Phở Bắc in Seattle, saw sales plummet. … They instituted new safety precautions, made sure their employees had masks and gloves and started pivoting.

“Phở Bắc’s namesake dish is not something people typically order to-go, Pham said. To appeal to their customers, the Pham siblings introduced a ‘Pho Now’ cup that people could eat while sitting on a nearby curb, on their walk home, or in the car. They also began selling a ‘Pho Later’ meal kit, complete with broth, separately wrapped ingredients and assembly instructions. The restaurant started delivering orders using an old parking enforcement vehicle dubbed the ‘Pho Mobile.’

“As it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going to end anytime soon, Pham and her siblings had to start making tough decisions. They closed two of their four Phở Bắc locations, and they were forced to reduce staff. … But if any of Phở Bắc’s current or former employees need something, the restaurant owners try to help: ‘My restaurant dynamic is very Vietnamese,’ Pham said. ‘It’s very practical. If [workers] need money, help [or] loans, we just kind of do what we can.’

“Operating multiple restaurants during a pandemic isn’t easy, but ‘survival mode is in our blood,’ Pham explained. Her parents, Theresa Cat Vu and Augustine Nien Pham, opened the first Phở Bắc location in 1982, a year after they came to the United States. Ultimately, Theresa and Augustine created a nourishing landmark in Seattle’s Little Saigon: The restaurant takes the shape of a red boat.

“Yenvy Pham and her Phở Bắc partners, siblings Khoa and Quynh-Vy, are dedicated to supporting fellow business owners in Little Saigon as economic fallout from the pandemic persists.

‘It’s my neighborhood, my Little Saigon,’ Pham said. ‘For me, business comes and goes, but the vibe of the neighborhood is so important, and so are the characters here. You’ve got to take care of your own people.’

“They recently donated $5,000 in proceeds from the Pho Mobile to the International Community Health Services clinic, where their sister works as a primary care doctor, and a small business relief fund for business owners in the Chinatown International District. …

“The siblings are also collaborating with other business owners. They added Hood Famous Bakeshop’s mini Filipino-flavored cheesecakes to their menu. Pham let Mangosteen — a traveling Texas-style barbecue joint from chef Thai Ha — take over one of their closed locations to sell brisket and wings with specialty sauces for pickup.

“The pandemic has given people more time to take stock of what’s important, Pham said in late April.

“ ‘I like the world stopping for a second to reassess our morality and get us out of this state of complacency,’ she said. ‘We’re doing powerful thinking about each other, ourselves, about the world. … We’re being more creative too and helping each other out,’ Pham added. …

“Despite the unknowns, Pham is confident that everything will work out. In her family, ‘we either fix it, we take care of it, we accept it, or we move onto something else.’ ”

More at the Lily, here.

Read Full Post »

merlin_173657409_96ae00c3-0157-4ad5-a852-80f037ae99ad-jumbo

Photo: ergey Ponomarev for the New York Times.

This was completely new to me: Many Russian restaurants provide disposable gloves for things like burgers that you eat with your hands. Although I know I’m much more likely to get Covid-19 from breathing droplets, I think I could get used to the glove concept.

As Anton Troianovski reports at the New York Times, “When you enter a home in Moscow, you take off your shoes. When you go to a play, you have to check your coat. When you eat a burger, you often wear gloves.

“Across hygiene-conscious Eastern Europe, many people consider it uncouth and unsanitary to eat a burger with their bare hands. The answer used to be a knife and fork. But the pandemic has accelerated a years-old trend: order a burger from Kyiv to Kamchatka — or in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn — and there is a fair chance it will come with a side of disposable gloves.

“Most often, the gloves are made of a synthetic, latex-free rubber called nitrile. At Black Star Burger, which launched the phenomenon in Moscow in 2016, the gloves on offer are black, individually wrapped in plastic packets. At Star Burger in Kyiv, Ukraine, they are green (or pink on Valentine’s Day). At Butterbro, a gastro pub in Minsk, Belarus, they come wrapped discreetly inside a napkin next to a serving dish made of the trunk of an ash tree.

‘Gloves, I think, are an unspoken, required attribute of any burger restaurant,’ said Butterbro’s manager, Alina Volkolovskaya. ‘I’m surprised that establishments in every country don’t offer them.’

“To visiting Americans, the practice always seemed odd, bordering on blasphemous. But when Moscow’s lockdown ended this month and I went out to celebrate, nervously, with a cheeseburger to go, it suddenly kind of made sense. …

“I called George Motz, a New York hamburger specialist, and he insisted that gloves negate the ‘very tactile experience’ of eating a burger. ‘Take the gloves off and get closer to your burger!’ Mr. Motz said. ..

“Several American restaurant safety experts, however, were intrigued, having never heard of establishments providing diners with disposable gloves. They doubted the practice would take off in the United States — the coronavirus, after all, is not even known to spread through food — but some said that gloves used properly could help protect people who don’t wash their hands from a variety of germs. …

“Vanity, not health concerns, first propelled Eastern Europe’s gloves-and-burgers fad. Mr. Levitas of Black Star Burger recruited Timati, a Russian rap star close to the Kremlin, to lend a celebrity cachet to his new burger chain, which now has 67 locations across the former Soviet Union and one in Los Angeles. …

“The gloves help Black Star’s customers feel special, Mr. Levitas said, like the sparklers that go off when waiters bring out the $11 ‘V.I.P.’ burger.

“The gloves proved impervious to politics. A Kyiv restaurateur, Gennady Medvedev, says he had the idea to serve gloves with burgers independently of Black Star Burger in the years after he opened his Star Burger chain in the Ukrainian capital in early 2014 — during his country’s anti-Putin revolution. …

“The trend took off behind the former Iron Curtain as fancy burger places popped up in a region unfamiliar with the dish before McDonald’s arrived in the 1990s. Alexander Monaenkov, a Moscow-born burger-bar owner in Prague, says he handed out gloves to evoke the refinement of white-gloved waiters in Michelin-star restaurants. Corina Enciu, a Moldovan-born restaurateur in Krakow, Poland, said she introduced gloves because her burger joint lacked a place for people to wash their hands. …

“Gera Wise, a Kyiv-born cafe and nightclub owner in the Russian-speaking Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach, said his customers started asking for gloves after Timati started modeling them. …

“Isaac Correa, a Puerto Rico-born chef who lived in Moscow for two decades, thinks the gloves-and-burgers concept could have a global future. Mr. Correa worked with Mr. Medvedev in Kyiv to start the Star Burger chain. … Now Mr. Correa runs a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla., and his diners hesitate to touch menus or to come inside to collect takeout orders.

“ ‘I could see some of my customers in a casual restaurant say, “Hey, look, I’m going to try this,” ‘ Mr. Correa said.”

I’m thinking of adding gloves to my other nutty pandemic practices, including throwing out the takeout container immediately and reheating all the food in the oven. Now, if only I could find a place that sells disposable gloves.

More at the New York Times, here.

Read Full Post »

mediamatic_eten_serre_separee_6-0

Photo: Anne Lakeman/Mediamatic ETEN
Testing the Serres Séparées safe-eating concept at Mediamatic restaurant in the Netherlands.

My husband keeps saying he can’t imagine that going to restaurants will ever be the same after coronavirus. In fact, he says, if nice restaurants continue doing takeout, maybe we should just stick with that.

Of course, restaurant owners are already thinking about these issues.

Byron Mühlberg reports from the Netherlands that the possibility of future guests requesting their own separate spaces has got some restaurateurs thinking creatively.

“With Dutch restaurants, bars and other catering services engulfed in uncertainty over how they might adjust to the 1.5-meter society,” he writes, “one Amsterdam restaurant is set to experiment with a brand new way of condoning off its guests: Using enclosed greenhouses.

“Mediamatic ETEN, part of a larger arts and entrepreneurship center focusing on sustainability, is a vegan restaurant. … From May 21, the restaurant will begin taking in guests, only this time they will be seated inside Serres Séparées (‘separated greenhouses’), enclosed glass structures, each equipped with a table for two or three diners.

” ‘This was one of the most feasible ideas from a large list of ideas we had when brainstorming,’ Mediamatic’s founding partner Willem Velthoven told NL Times. …

Initially, no more than three guests will be allowed to dine inside each greenhouse, even though there is the capacity for more. ‘[This is] is because we are now careful with our optimism,’ Velthoven explained. …

” ‘Bigger groups could [come] now, but then they should be families. For now, bigger groups are being discouraged because, from our experience, they are just louder and then you get the excited behavior causing spittle to fly and so on, and that’s the kind of behavior that would make the virus spread faster,’ Velthoven said. …

“Catering industry association KHN told NL Times, ‘We sent a protocol to the government two weeks ago, containing advice on how best to open the 1.5 [meter] distance. It is crucial that the government provide perspective quickly.’

“While KHN said it would not yet advise restaurants to reopen on June 1, renowned catering tycoon Laurens Meyer … questioned the idea of people becoming too careful with space.

” ‘We have to realize that there will always be some kind of virus. Whether it is worse than the flu, we have to see. If there is nothing left of our economy, we will no longer be able to afford health care and that will also cost human lives,’ explained Meyer.

“Velthoven, on the other hand, disagrees with Meyer’s approach, urging caution before advising restaurants to open their doors to the public without careful examination. ‘It’s about others and not just yourself in this case,’ he said. …

“Velthoven also understands the business argument, even though he has spent a career looking for creative solutions to problems instead of blunt responses. He ultimately wondered what the government’s plan is for the catering sector if those businesses are ordered to stay closed for a longer duration. If billions of euros are being diverted to KLM, he wonders what the government will be able to do to bail out his industry.

” ‘If I am not allowed to do anything the rest of this year, it’s finished,’ he lamented.” More at NL Times, here.

If you have heard of other good ideas for restaurants and bars in our cautious Covid-19 world, please share them in Comments. Pretty sure that there’s a large group of potential patrons who will be looking for the safest way to dine out — at least until a vaccine is widely available.

Read Full Post »

http3a2f2fcdn.cnn_.com2fcnnnext2fdam2fassets2f191115120957-immigrant-food-columbia-road

Photo: Irena Stein Photography/Immigrant Food
Chef Enrique Limardo says the “Columbia Road” bowl at his restaurant, Immigrant Food, combines elements of Salvadoran and Ethiopian cuisine. A special side dish: opportunities to help recent immigrants.

People say, “I’m upset, but I don’t know what to do.” Or, “I don’t have time to do anything extra.”

Look, when you shop, do you have time put a can in the food pantry bin? Do you have time to write a handful of postcards to voters once in a while? There is always time to put a can in a bin; there are always nonprofits that will accept a tiny bit of volunteering. It adds up.

And here’s the biggest benefit: you will feel better. Was it Ann Landers or Dear Abby who was always recommending helping someone worse off as a cure for nonclinical blues? You just need to find a volunteer gig that fits your interests.

This post is mostly about a cool restaurant in Washington, but be sure to note what the owners are trying to do in addition to presenting delicious, creative dishes.

In November, Catherine E. Shoichet reported at CNN about a new restaurant that opened up in the nation’s capital.

“It’s called ‘Immigrant Food,’ ” she wrote, “and it’s just a block from the White House. The fast-casual spot caters to a weekday lunchtime crowd, with bowls blending cuisines from different cultures around the globe — like a dish that combines Vietnamese spicy-rice noodles with pickled bananas in what the restaurant says is an ‘ode both to Central America’s favorite fruit and to German-style pickling.’

“It also gives diners a chance to donate to local immigrant advocacy groups, all under a slogan aiming to bridge the political divide and find common ground: ‘United at the Table.’

“[Co-founder Peter Schechter] wants people to feel at home here, and to hear the story he’s excited to tell. …

“As the child of immigrants from Austria and Germany, Schechter says he felt like he had to respond to the surge in anti-immigrant rhetoric across the United States.

” ‘This isn’t the America I recognize. … Immigrants have been the foundation of growth and vibrancy. This country has been great again and again and again because of immigrants. …

” ‘Immigrants are feeding America,’ he says. ‘All of the industries that make food, whether it is the picking or the shucking or the meatpacking or the slaughterhouses, (or) in restaurants, the servers, the bus boys, this is an industry that is dominated by immigrants.’ …

“At Immigrant Food, menus available by the door describe each of the nine fusion bowls and five vegan drinks on tap. They also encourage visitors to donate to and volunteer with local immigrant advocacy groups.

“Among the suggestions listed on the restaurant’s ‘engagement menu’: teaching English, visiting detention centers, staffing hotlines and helping with mock ICE interviews. …

“There’s also a photo booth featuring a world map. Diners can point to where their families are from, snap a selfie and get a text message with a frame around the image that says, ‘We are all immigrants!’ …

‘People say, “I’m really upset about what’s happening, but I don’t know what to do,” ‘ Schechter says. ‘And so, you come to this restaurant, we will give you stuff to do — concretely and easily.’

“Local immigrant advocacy groups will also be able to use the restaurant’s upstairs space for things like meetings and English classes, free of charge. And on its website, the restaurant will serve up bite-sized breakdowns of immigration policy issues, dubbed ‘The Think Table.’ …

“The location turned out to be a case of serendipity, Schechter says. ‘[But] I really think it goes beyond the political.’ …

As he sips on a drink called ‘Across the Border’ — which blends cacao, dates, peppers, allspice, vanilla and cashew milk — Robert Evans, 72, says he loves the concept but worries the restaurant might end up preaching to the choir rather than crossing political lines.

“But then again, he says, one day someone who works in the White House might stop by. … In Schechter’s view, immigration shouldn’t be a polarizing topic. He points to polls that show most Americans say immigration is a good thing. And he hopes Democrats and Republicans will dine at Immigrant Food together.

” ‘The table, the restaurant, has always been a place where people unite,’ he says.” More.

By the way, if you’re ever in Providence, the immigrant restaurant called Aleppo Sweets is just fantastic. An extra treat for me is running into one of my former ESL (English as a Second Language) students who’s working alongside her family members there.

Read Full Post »

jayfai_wide-3a01246810c2d39a14544605a9be03051690aae9-s800-c85

Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images
Chef Jay Fai in Thailand wears a wool cap and safety goggles to ward off the heat from the charcoal fires in the alley where she cooks all of her restaurant’s meals. She won a Michelin star for her high-quality food.

Quality can be found anywhere, as this National Public Radio (NPR) story about a chef in a Thailand alley shows.

Michael Sullivan writes, “Bangkok is legendary for its fun and its food. Especially its street food. And one vendor’s is so good, it has earned a Michelin star for the second year running.

“Raan Jay Fai is a small, seven-table joint in Old Bangkok that’d be easy to miss if it weren’t for the line. There’s always a line.

“You can try to make a reservation, but the place — named after its chef/owner, a local legend — is usually booked a month or two out. Signing up for the walk-in list is the best bet for many, especially tourists. But you need to get there early.

” ‘I got here at 7:30 [a.m.],’ says 24-year old Kashmira Velji, from Austin, Texas, who was determined to try Jay Fai after viewing the chef’s star turn on the recent Netflix special Street Food. Never mind that the restaurant doesn’t open for lunch until 2 p.m. …

” ‘I’ve never had anything like this before,’ Velji says between bites. … ‘Our first bites were very intense. We kind of just stayed silent and were in shock at how good it tastes.’

“Suparat Tretachayakorn — a doctor — isn’t shocked at all. He’s a regular. And the crab omelette is one of his go-to dishes. … He and his friends have also ordered Jay Fai’s famous tom yum soup, and half a dozen other dishes. Tom yum is a Thai staple — made with shrimp, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chilies, garlic and mushrooms — and it’s found almost everywhere. But that doesn’t mean it’s always good.

” ‘Actually, I don’t normally order tom yum because I know that I’m going to be disappointed at most places,’ he says. …

“It’s another of her signature dishes. One that’s got the visitor from Austin, Velji, baffled. In a good way.

” ‘It tastes just like the soup, but it’s dry,’ she says. “It’s exactly the same flavors of the tom yum soup, but instead of slurping it, I’m chewing it and I’m still getting all those sour, spicy flavors’ …

“Part of the fun [is] watching the maestro at work. The 74-year-old Jay Fai cooks everything herself — over two blazing charcoal fires, in the alley next to the busy street. …

” ‘It’s faster to cook when using charcoal, to stir-fry vegetables,’ Jay Fai says. … Jay Fai is a perfectionist — so much so that she doesn’t let anyone else on her staff do the cooking. That’s another reason why it takes so long to get your food here — even with reservations.

” ‘They can’t do it. This is very hard to do,’ she says. ‘It’s not that I don’t want them to do it, I do. But even when they watch me, they can’t remember anything.’ …

“About that Michelin star: When she got the first phone call, she kind of blew them off. By accident.

” ‘I was confused,’ she says. ‘They said they wanted to invite me to an event, a gala dinner, and I said, “Oh, my, a gala dinner, no thank you. I don’t want to go. What would I wear?” ‘…

” ‘To be honest, it was the high point of my life. If I die now, if anything happens now, I’m OK with it. I’ll die peacefully.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

Read Full Post »

2982

Photo: Universo Santi
This haute cuisine restaurant in Spain makes a point of hiring workers with disabilities.

I have posted a few stories about successful operations that hire workers with disabilities, but this is the first I remember seeing about a high-class restaurant set up for the purpose of creating jobs that don’t differ from jobs in establishments that don’t use workers with disabilities.

Stephen Burgen writes at the Guardian, “The first thing that strikes you is the calm, the light, the modern art on the walls – and then of course the food. It’s only later that you realise there is something different, and a little special, about Universo Santi, a restaurant in the southern Spanish city of Jerez.

“ ‘People don’t come here because the staff are disabled but because it’s the best restaurant in the area. Whatever reason they came for, the talking is about the food,’ says Antonio Vila.

“Vila is the president of the Fundación Universo Accesible, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping people with disabilities join the mainstream workforce. He has also been the driving force behind Universo Santi, the haute cuisine restaurant whose 20 employees all have some form of disability.

“ ‘I always wanted to show what people with disabilities, given the right training, were capable of,’ says Vila, who is a senior manager at DKV insurance. ‘They were not represented in the world of haute cuisine. Universo Santi has broken through that barrier.’

“The 20 staff, whose ages range from 22 to 62, were recruited from an original list of 1,500. To qualify, applicants had to be unemployed and have more than 35% disability.

“ ‘I feel really lucky to be part of this,’ says Gloria Bazán, head of human resources, who has cerebral palsy. ‘It’s difficult to work when society just sees you as someone with a handicap. This has given me the opportunity to be independent and to participate like any other human being.’

“Alejandro Giménez, 23, has Down’s syndrome and is a commis chef. ‘It’s given me the chance to become independent doing something I’ve loved since I was a kid,’ says Giménez, who lived with his mother until he was recruited.

“ ‘Working here has transformed my life. So many things I used to ask my mother to do, I do myself. I didn’t even know how to take a train by myself because I’d just miss my stop.’ …

“Universo Santi may soon have a star in the Michelin firmament as the Michelin Guide people have already sampled the menu which, at €60 (£53), is less than half the price of a typical menú de degustación.

“ ‘Of course they didn’t introduce themselves but we knew who they were,’ says Almudena Merlo, the maître d’. …

“The Jerez restaurant takes its name from Santi Santamaria, chef at the Michelin three-star Can Fabes in Catalonia until his sudden death in 2011. Can Fabes closed shortly afterwards but his family wanted to carry on his name and culinary tradition and were keen to support the Jerez project. …

“The family’s enthusiasm attracted the attention of Spain’s top chefs, among them Martín Berasategui, [Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, twice voted the best restaurant in the world] and Ángel León, all of whom have contributed recipes and their time as guest chefs at the restaurant.”

More at the Guardian, here. The article also mentions other European enterprises that employ people with disabilities.

Photo: Universo Santi
Says Alejandro Giménez, a junior chef with Down Syndrome who works at Universo Santi in Jerez, “Working here has transformed my life.”

768

Read Full Post »

597568180_750x422

Photo: WGRZ
The owner of Sakina Halal Grill, Kazi Mannan, knows what it’s like to be hungry. Thanks to his paying customers in DC, he can give meals to the homeless for free.

Don’t you love successful people who remember how painful poverty and daily anxiety about food can be — and who decide to help others? Tim Ebner reports at the Eater in Washington, DC, about a restaurateur who did just that.

“Come 2 p.m. in many Washington, D.C., restaurants, the lunch rush is all but over. … But for Kazi Mannan, owner of Sakina Halal Grill, the lunch rush is just getting started.

“On a late-Friday afternoon, the door to his Pakistani-Nepalese-Indian restaurant keeps swinging open. A homeless man who is deaf walks through the door. He carries a note. Mannan reads it, then attempts to sign with the man.

“Mannan asks if he wants something to eat while gesturing toward his mouth. The man holds up two fingers and pulls out $2, but Mannan shakes his head no.

“ ‘No money,’ ” he says. ‘You eat for free.’

“That’s Mannan’s policy for every homeless person who walks through the door. At Sakina Halal Grill, the poor, homeless, and hungry eat for free — Mannan calculates he gave away 6,000 meals in 2016 — and the waiters serve them in the dining room, as if they’re full paying customers.

“The buffet-style, halal restaurant, which is undergoing a name change from Mayur Kabab House to Sakina Halal Grill — ‘It’s a tribute to all the mothers around the world,’ Mannan, who lost his mother Sakina, 26 years ago, says of the switch. …

” ‘I’m the little guy on this block,’ Mannan said. ‘And, I love it. …

‘I want to say, “Hey listen, corporate people and people in politics! Listen to me!” I want to show them what love can do, and I want to spread a wave of love that touches the lives of millions.’

“Mannan says he’s living the immigrant dream, in a place where people are likely to take notice. Keeping his door open — which he did Thursday during the #ADayWithoutImmigrants strike — is more than just good business, it’s an expression of his faith. …

” ‘Kazi Mannan: The restaurant has been here for decades. I took it over in 2013 and this really was my dream. I came from a village in Pakistan that didn’t have electricity or plumbing. Our school was completely outdoors. It was always my dream to overcome poverty and own a restaurant. …

” ‘I started working at a gas station off Benning Road in Northeast. At the time, it was a very dangerous neighborhood. I worked there for a few years, and eventually, I saved enough money to start a limousine service; someone told me that I could make my own money as a driver. The funny thing is — that’s where you meet all of the stars of D.C. I still own the company, and I’m very proud that I can provide jobs to people like me, immigrants. Because seriously for me, this is not about the money. …

” ‘My mother taught me to be generous and give with my time. Because remember, we were broke. But, if we had a guest visit, she would make tea and welcome them into our home. She gave everything of herself. …

” ‘I’m a Muslim-American. And I like to believe that when I’m giving to the poor and hungry, God sees that. Just the act of giving a smile to someone can be a blessing. Just think about what food has the power to do. …

‘ ‘The chefs work together … and not only do they make delicious food, but they represent places, which are typically at odds with each other. They come together in this kitchen and use pure love and food. …

” ‘I am proud to be Muslim-American. I am proud to be a citizen of this country. And as a Muslim, I want to show others the true essence of Islam — and that is to love.”

More at the Eater, here. Manna’s initiative seems to be going strong (click here for a 2019 update), which is reassuring as the Eater article is from 2017. I was sorry to see that when Panera tried something similar, a pay-what-you-want model, it didn’t last. (See Bloomberg.) As philanthropic people keep trying to find ways to feed the hungry while running a business, a model that works long-term will emerge. Meanwhile, one kind individual can make a huge difference in many lives.

Read Full Post »

5886

Photos: Giada Randaccio Skouras Sweeny
“There is an incredible amount of value of welcoming in refugees, and it benefits us from an economic perspective, it benefits us in terms of flavors and cuisines.” says the founder of Emma’s Torch restaurant, Kerry Brodie.

What are ordinary people supposed to do against the horrors of the headlines? Another violent person who has brainwashed himself with misinformation about immigrants has acted out. He did it in New Zealand, but his online buddies are everywhere.

I am an ordinary person, and here’s all I can do, little as it is. I can donate to causes that work to prevent ignorance and violence. I can remind myself that there are an awful lot of people whose views on immigration are completely different from the evil doer’s. And I can share another story about how one of those people took positive action, to the delight of many.

Amanda Holpuch reports at the Guardian, “Culinary adventures are woven into the fabric of New York City. But in Brooklyn one December night, only one restaurant could offer a five-course meal that began with salmon cake and couscous from Mali and ended with an Iraqi dessert, including in between dishes from Honduras and China.

“The restaurant is Emma’s Torch, a non-profit that teaches refugees, asylum seekers and survivors of trafficking the culinary and communication skills needed for a career in the kitchen. Six days a week, diners are offered a menu described as: ‘New American cuisine – prepared by our new American students.’

“The restaurant began as a pop-up [in 2017] before expanding this summer into a bright, airy restaurant known for its earthy black-eyed pea hummus garnished with dried chillies. The New Yorker food critic, Hannah Goldfield, touted their ‘perfect shakshuka’ served during weekend brunch service in her August review of the restaurant. In 2019, they will open a second space at Brooklyn Public Library.

“Emma’s Torch is named for Emma Lazarus, the poet whose words are inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

“On one night each month, Emma’s Torch is also the site of a graduation dinner that showcases the flavors of students’ homes, such as the lotus root dyed pink with dragon fruit sauce that was prepared by a Chinese student for the second course of the December dinner.

“Before the first course was served, as the clock ticked down, the restaurant’s founder, Kerry Brodie, spoke over the sounds of sizzling pans.

“There is an incredible amount of value of welcoming in refugees,’ she said, ‘and it benefits us from an economic perspective, it benefits us in terms of flavors and cuisines.’

“In an eight-week, paid apprenticeship, trainees learn how to properly use knives to slice, dice and chop. They also take English classes and participate in mock job interviews. They receive 400 hours of culinary training and are paid $15 an hour for their work at the restaurant and on catered events. In 2017, every graduate was placed in a culinary job. …

“Aya fled Iraq two years ago, fearing persecution because her husband was a professor. Violence against academics became common after the US-led invasion in 2003; the couple were being threatened for her husband’s refusal to obey militias. …

“She studied computer programming for two years but that gave way to cooking, as her efforts were praised by teachers and friends. …

“In Iraq, she could buy their favorite foods cheaply and easily. In the US, she had to craft meals from start to finish, scouring markets for Arab ingredients. … But as Aya kept friends, family and teachers happy with her meals from home, it was clear her future lay in cooking, not computers. The refugee agency Hias connected her with Emma’s Torch.”

Read more about Aya and the work of Emma’s Torch at the Guardian, here.

Emma’s Torch in Brooklyn, NY, is a restaurant that values the contributions of refugees. The name refers to the poem by Emma Lazarus quoted on the Statue of Liberty.

4102

Read Full Post »

Photo: My Modern Met
Sekai Kobayashi allows customers to work 50-minute shifts in order to earn their meal.

This story is such a good example of how diversity breeds creativity. The restaurant entrepreneur here got her ideas about a new model of eatery, an open-source eatery, from her former techy career. In the same way, having diversity in a workplace or other organization, including diversity of thought, can be a kind of power pack (as my 3-year-old granddaughter would say) for the mission.

Jessica Stewart has a report at My Modern Met, “Don’t have enough money for a hot meal? That’s not a problem if you are dining at Tokyo’s Mirai Shokudo (aka Future Eatery). Since opening its doors in 2015, owner Sekai Kobayashi has allowed customers to work 50-minute shifts in order to earn their meal at the small eatery, which seats 12 people around a small counter. Kobayashi, a former software engineer, sees the system as part of her ‘open source’ restaurant concept, where the participation of customers helps the business.

“The idea struck her while working for a recipe website, Cookpad Inc., which has an in-office kitchen that staff could use. Encouraged by her colleagues’ compliments, she decided to leave behind her work as an engineer and open her own restaurant. Now, in a little over two years, more than 500 helpers have worked with Kobayashi — who runs Mirai Shokudo by herself — and earned a meal by doing so.

“Ranging from university students looking to save money to a former teacher in her mid-50s hoping to move into the food industry, there’s always someone new in the kitchen. And for Kobayashi, this is part of the joy.

‘I use this system because I want to connect with hungry people who otherwise couldn’t eat at restaurants because they don’t have money.’

“This desire to give back doesn’t just end with a free meal. The former engineer takes things a step further, even sharing the finances of her restaurant with the public, … she shared with China Daily.

“ ‘I posted the restaurant’s business plan and finances on its website so I can collect input from the public on how to make improvements.’ Not only does it help her, but it also serves as a resource for others who may be interested in opening their own restaurant.” More here.

Hat tip: Boston Public Radio with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, a show I really enjoy. It airs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Anna Mindess
One of Ba-Bite’s colorful salads: red cabbage with mung bean sprouts, dried figs, arugula and feta and the creamiest hummus. The restaurant is like a welcoming family for immigrant workers.

Lisa, who lives in Oakland, California, put this nice story about an Oakland restaurant on Facebook. If I ever go to Oakland, I’m going to visit Ba-Bite in person.

Anna Mindess writes at KQED Food, “They’ve won accolades for their silken hummus and rainbow of organic salads, but for the owners of Oakland’s Ba-Bite, the most precious thing the almost two-year old restaurant can display right now may be the Sanctuary Restaurant poster on their front door. …

“Ba-Bite is Hebrew for ‘at home.’ Even though most of Mica Talmor and Robert Gott’s employees don’t speak Hebrew, (besides English, they speak Spanish, Maya, and Arabic) they completely understand the concept. The majority of them — like most food service workers in the Bay Area — are immigrants. After walking across deserts at night, being shortchanged or abused in other restaurants where they could not complain, working at Ba-Bite feels like they have found a family.

“Russell Chable manages the kitchen at Ba-Bite and is responsible for set up, prepping, and cooking. He grew up in a tiny town in Mexico’s Yucatan. … He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to his lead position in Ba-Bite.

“After eight years away from home, Russell missed his mom. Sure, he would talk to her on the phone every week, but he wanted to see her face. So this determined young man decided to build his parents a cell tower so that he could FaceTime with his mom. Six months ago, he made contact with a man back in Mexico who outlined what would be needed: laptops, cables and a cell tower. Russell had his uncle check out the man and then sent money. Now he uses FaceTime to talk to his mom every week, and his parents have a small business renting out computer and internet time. …

“Fatima Abudamos is from Jordan and works as cashier. She also holds the distinction as Ba-Bite’s best falafel shaper. As she stuffs the green balls with sheep’s milk feta, she says, ‘This is an amazing place, just like a family. I’ve worked here almost two years. Mica is not like a boss, she’s more like a friend. She doesn’t scream if you make a mistake; she explains things. I feel safe here; it’s my second family.’ …

““We pay all of our workers well,” says Gott. “Partly because we know how expensive it is to live here. My experience is that more often than not, immigrants are working multiple jobs or longer hours, and forgo taking time off at all costs, as they want to or need to make money. …

“[Food runner Kasandra Molina says,] ‘This space here doesn’t feel like a workplace, it feels like home. We all get along. They care about our opinions and feelings. They don’t treat us just as employees; it’s more like a family.’ ”

More at KQED, here.

Are you in Oakland? Check out Ba-Bite at 3905 Piedmont Ave. Phone: (510) 250-9526

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: