Appetizers 9/18: Restaurants Think Outside the Takeout Box

A picnic spread | Photo Credit: Picnic Society by Gwen

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

Making Us … Impressed

With the coronavirus pandemic many months in now, some restaurants have honed their takeout to be as elevated as dining in. Acclaimed Los Angeles chef Curtis Stone has a new pop-up restaurant and market called Picnic Society by Gwen. It’s tailor-made for 2020, with pre-made or build-your-own picnic baskets that can be eaten at the restaurant, lawns nearby, or at home. Baskets include upgraded picnic classics such as housemade charcuterie, panzanella salad, and a caprese sandwich.

Over at Ralph Lauren’s The Polo Bar in New York City, takeout meals come inside hunter green insulated tote bags that have the restaurant’s name on them in gold lettering. There are also note cards with watercolor illustrations of each dish and cocktail as well as plating instructions. And at award-winning Seattle restaurant Salare, regularly rotating menus come with custom playlists that match the menu and what the cooks listen to as they prepare the meals.

You can also now browse OpenTable for takeout options near you, available to order and pay for right in the OpenTable app. These touches make dining at home feel just as special.

Making Us … Amplify

Private financial assistance to restaurants continues with two new grants that will make a big difference to a lot of people. The LEE Initiative and Maker’s Mark have announced that they will give $3,000 grants to all 2020 James Beard Award nominees as a way to honor the chefs since the awards will no longer occur this year. Some recipients include Gregory Gourdet of Portland’s Departure, Cheetie Kumar of Raleigh’s Garland, and Daniela Soto-Innes of NYC’s ATLA.

The James Beard Foundation has announced its own new $15,000 grant program for food or beverage businesses that are majority-owned by Black or Indigenous individuals since “individuals from these marginalized communities typically have a harder time accessing capital, often resulting in having to ‘bootstrap’ a business with personal debt or loans from friends and family,” the announcement says. Every dollar helps.

Making Us … Proud

Despite the myriad challenges facing restaurants right now, chefs are still finding ways to innovate and expand. Momofuku’s head honcho David Chang has a new memoir out called Eat a Peach, which focuses on his rise to fame, while celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson will publish a cookbook in October called The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food that honors Black excellence in the culinary world.

Plus, chefs are keeping up community support through activism. Over in San Francisco, restaurant group Back of the House (Lolinda, Starbelly, and more) is holding a fundraiser this Monday, September 21 with five percent of net proceeds from its restaurants going toward the Latino Community Foundation Wildfire Relief Fund, which contributes to Latinx-led organizations supporting families displaced by the current wildfires across all the state of California. Across the country in D.C., Paola Velez, Rob Rubba, and Willa Pelini are back with the next iteration of their global virtual bake sales, this one called Bake the Vote with proceeds going toward organizations that are ensuring a fair election. Restaurants around the world participate, with pre-sales starting September 21. It’s all leaving us amazed.

Making Us … Celebrate

Previous Appetizers

September 4: Houston Restaurants Help With Hurrican Laura Relief

August 21: NYC Chefs Raise Money for Beirut

August 12: New Documentary Shows What It Takes to Run a Restaurant During Coronavirus

July 24: Chefs Adjust Menus for Eating Outdoors

July 10: Restaurants Take to the Streets

June 25: How Restaurants Are Celebrating Pride This Year

June 19: Restaurants Get Creative With Reopening

June 12: Chefs Band Together for Black Lives Matter Bake Sale

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