Appetizers 6/12: Chefs Band Together for Black Lives Matter Bake Sale

Garland's mural | Photo Credit: Cheetie Kumar

Welcome to Appetizers, OpenTable’s weekly column that aims to uplift, delight, surprise, and motivate with a weekly roundup of the most inspiring food-world news of the week. Start your weekend with the things that are making us laugh, cry, think, and just plain hungry for more.

Making Us … Hungry

Chefs around the world are finding ways to band together to support Black Lives Matter. D.C. chefs Paola Velez and Willa Pelini are organizing a global virtual bake sale, with proceeds benefiting the movement. More than 1,000 bakers are participating from as far as India, Australia, and Germany. Orders for baked goods from Bakers Against Racism will be taken starting June 15 for pickup on June 20.

Velez, the James Beard Awards-nominated pastry chef at Kith and Kin in D.C., will be baking a passionfruit strawberry buckle for this year’s bake sale. “We hope this is something we can come back to year after year because it shouldn’t just happen this year,” Velez told Eater D.C. “When we say, ‘Black lives matter,’ we shouldn’t just say it once. We should keep on shouting it from the rooftops until true, effective change happens. Until my life matters.”

Over in Chicago, a similar effort took place this week, with more than 30 Black and Latinx chefs coming together for an event meant to bridge cultures between the two communities. Chefs such as Mariya Russell of Kumiko, Carlos Gaytán of Tzuco, and Erick Williams of Virtue cooked and shared food, watched performances, and listened to speakers.

Making Us … Listen

A multitude of Black chefs are speaking out on this moment in time and how it pertains to the restaurant industry via op-eds and perspectives in various publications. Acclaimed D.C. chef Kwame Onwuachi of Kith and Kin spoke to Nina Compton of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, Edouardo Jordan of Salare in Seattle, and Peter Prime of Cane in D.C. to hear their stories about what it’s like to be Black restaurant owners in a majority white industry. They shared instances of being turned down for multiple loans and by various landlords or facing discrimination in the kitchen. But Onwuachi ended it on a hopeful note and a call to action:

“If we truly plant the seeds of understanding, inclusion, compassion and equity today, we will certainly have a better future tomorrow. The next generation of black and brown chefs will have plenty of people to look to for inspiration. One thing I know about my friends and colleagues whom I have come up the ranks with and who have defied the odds to get here: We are resilient, and we are strong,” he wrote.

Other chefs who have shared their views through media op-eds include Red Rooster owner Marcus Samuelsson on how he wants to feed his community’s needs, FieldTrip chef JJ Johnson on why supporting Black-owned businesses is important, and Paola Velez on how the U.S.’s culinary system that was built on bias must change.

Making Us … Inspired

The city of Raleigh, North Carolina is turning its boarded-up business windows into an opportunity for activist art. Some are working with The Raleigh Murals Project, funded by arts nonprofit VAE, such as Royale owner Jeffrey Seizer, to “raise awareness about the issues that led to the protests through murals.” Others are doing it independently, like chef Cheetie Kumar of Indian-Southern-Asian restaurant Garland. Kumar says she and her staff painted a mural on Garland as a way to show solidarity.

“All the boards put up downtown started to reflect a new beginning where we all kind of had the same starting place,” she said in an email. “We were trying to say that we don’t care about our broken glass — we don’t care that we have to stop everything for a week or two —  if this can lead to the long-needed change in our culture and policies.”

Making Us … Resolute

To help diners patronize Black-owned restaurants as a way to support racial equality, a flurry of lists spotlighting those businesses appeared in media outlets across the country last week. Now, some Black restaurateurs are saying that the attention has resulted in higher sales. House of Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen in San Francisco owner Selamawet “Nani” Tsegaye told SFGate that business was quiet in March and April, but since Sunday a line of up to 30 people at a time have been waiting outside for takeout. Brooklyn American restaurant The Bergen has seen as much as a 15 to 20 percent increase in sales, owner Ty Brown told Eater NY, and while Cane owner Peter Prime says he can’t definitively ascribe the uptick in sales at his Washington D.C. Caribbean restaurant to the lists, he told the Washington Post that he has “felt a lot of love from the restaurant industry and the community.” To find a Black-owned restaurant near you, head here.

Making Us … Relieved

The restaurant industry scored a major win last week when the Senate passed legislation that gives more flexibility to restaurants and other small businesses that get loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. Specifically, a higher portion of the loan can now be spent on expenses, such as rent or utilities, other than payroll, and loans can be used for 24 weeks instead of the previous five.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition, a new national lobby representing independent restaurants that has been fighting for these reforms, said in a release that the changes give independent restaurants “a fighting chance at reopening.”

Making Us … Act

This Black-owned restaurant Bingo board.

Previous Appetizers

June 8: Restaurants Rally Around the Black Community

May 29: California Restaurant Injects Whimsy Into Reopening

May 22: Ayesha Curry Launches a Lifestyle Magazine

May 15: Top Chefs Do Good