Local chefs and culinary influencers teamed up with the national initiative #AskChefsAnything, a campaign that raises awareness and funds to feed immigrant workers in the hospitality industry who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The #AskChefsAnything initiative was started by Gaeleen Quinn and Anna Polonsky, both of whom are New York startup founders and food industry veterans. They wanted to help immigrant workers, who they say are most impacted in the restaurant industry by the pandemic.
The #AskChefsAnything campaign partnered with the Southern Smoke Foundation, founded by Houston chef Chris Shepherd, to help raise and distribute funds. The funds were raised by the chefs and culinary influencers auctioning off a 30-minute, ask anything Zoom call. The auction began last Thursday and ended Sunday. The auction raised $15,430, which eclipsed the initial goal of $15,000.
One of the participating chefs, owner Ford Fry of La Lucha and Superica at 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., said the hospitality industry has been hit hard the last few months and the industry has to help its own. Fry’s interview was auctioned off at $140.
“(The initiative) will be impactful in many ways,” Fry said. “Providing groceries to immigrant workers with vulnerable households is a great first step in offering some sort of relief to those ladies and gentlemen working so diligently to serve other ladies and gentlemen in restaurants across Houston and throughout the country.”
Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar, 1701 W. 15th St., also participated in the initiative and saw it as a way to say thanks and to show support for what she called the “unsung heroes” of the kitchen, dining rooms and farms that are not eligible for government assistance. Masson’s interview bid raised $380.
“Something as small as buying groceries for their families or paying the electric bill to keep the lights on will allow these folks to continue working and providing for their families,” Masson said. “Hopefully, reducing a little of their stress in their daily lives.”
Other area chefs that auctioned off an interview include Ronnie Killen of upcoming Heights restaurant Killen’s at 101 Heights Blvd., Jason Giagrande of the Roastery, which is located inside H-E-B at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr., and Justin Yu of Better Luck Tomorrow, 544 Yale St., and Squable, 632 W. 19th St.
Killen’s final bid raised $350 toward the cause, Giagrande’s raised $180 and Yu’s raised $640.
“I love having a chance to engage with our guests so the opportunity to have a 30-minute call where someone can ask me anything about my career, our restaurants and my passions sounded like a lot of fun to me,” Fry said. “I hope I get the chance to talk to someone about why I chose this path, and why the people are what make this industry what it is.”
Masson said she was up for any question, as long as she wasn’t asked for her Couch Potato Cookie recipe.