Appetizers 8/21: NYC Chefs Raise Money for Beirut

A spread from Au Za'atar | Photo Credit: Morgan Raum/Au Za'atar

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 … Proud

Following the tragic explosion in Beirut earlier this month, some New York City chefs have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness and funds for those affected. Beirut natives and ilili owners Philippe Massoud and Alexander Massoud have set up an emergency disaster relief fund, to which Middle Eastern restaurants around the country are donating proceeds through early September. ilili, Au Za’atar, Balade, Naya, Cedar’s Café, and Paumanok Vineyards are all participating. Plus, humanitarian chef José Andrés has brought in his nonprofit World Central Kitchen to help feed those in need.

Making Us … Bummed

The James Beard Foundation has officially canceled its prestigious awards for 2020 and 2021, saying that, “the Foundation believes the assignment of Awards will do little to further the industry in its current uphill battle.” The choice comes following influential chef David Kinch’s decision to withdraw his name from the Outstanding Chef category, writing on Instagram that, “The idea of celebrating achievement … simply does not feel right in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, and the devastation it has pressed upon our chosen métier and industry.”

While the choice is understandable and right for many, we still can’t help but be disappointed to not celebrate the industry in this way right now. In the meantime, the JBF will focus on spotlighting previously announced nominees and continuing its important industry advocacy.

Making Us … Hopeful

As the newly formed lobby Independent Restaurant Coalition continues to fight for the RESTAURANTS Act, a governmental grant program for independent restaurants, it’s getting some hefty names on board. Both Morgan Freeman and Jake Gyllenhaal have lent their voices to the cause, Freeman literally through voicing a commercial and Gyllenhaal with selling shirts that give 100 percent of proceeds to the IRC. The IRC is also encouraging restaurants to include this flyer in takeout to raise awareness with diners for the Act. OpenTable and its employees are sending letters to Congress in support of the Act, and you can join by sending a pre-written letter to your reps here.

Making Us … Excited

Renowned chef Dan Barber, owner of one of the country’s best restaurants, Blue Hill at Stone Barnes, is completely changing his business model for 2021. Barber is handing over the upstate New York restaurant and farm to a rotating set of “diverse” chefs who “interpret the farm and the region through their own cuisines and experiences,” he wrote in a letter to staff. There’s no word yet as to who the chefs will be, but the idea is to work toward “a community and a culture that are supportive, equitable and diverse,” the letter continued. The move comes at a time in which many in the restaurant industry are working to diversify its prominent voices. The New York City location of Blue Hill will still be Barber’s domain and sell food boxes during the pandemic.

Making Us … Laugh

Previous Appetizers

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