By Christine Bordelon
Dubbed Team Cushaw, Team Beef Stew and Team Bread Pudding, members of several local restaurant groups united Sept. 5-6 to help Second Harvest Food Bank’s Community Kitchen prepare meals for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
“Our goal was to cook what we can, chill it and package it,” said Amy Sins, owner and chef at Langlois Culinary Crossroads. Sins coordinated the Flood & Disaster Outreach – New Orleans Cooks, a Louisiana flood and disaster outreach and volunteer network of New Orleans cooks as “a show of solidarity to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”
Before they mobilized and cooked at Second Harvest, they had already collected thousands of dollars in gift cards on Aug. 29 to help Houston-area hospitality workers.
“I went to Loyola, and I believe strongly in being a person for others,” Sins said. “I was on the receiving side for Katrina, and I realized it was time to be on the giving side.”
Volunteers from approximately 20 local restaurant groups including Dickie Brennan’s, Elysian Seafood, Langlois, Pizza NOLA, the Ralph Brennan Group, Taceaux Loceaux, Carrollton Market, Blue Crab, Appoline, Domenica and other volunteers came in and were assigned to groups to cut onions, squash, bread, mushrooms – whatever was needed to make sure red beans and rice, 40 gallons of chicken Creole with brown rice, roasted pork loin with sausage bread dressing and pork gravy, beef stew, cushaw (squash) gratin and bread pudding was prepared, packed and shipped out.
Gave up their day off
Sins said several restaurant volunteers worked at Second Harvest on their day off.
“I had the opportunity to come and use my skills and was able to bring donations,” Melissa Montero from the Ralph Brennan group. She said her restaurant distributors such as Leidenheimer donated 1,000 po-boy loaves and Economical Janitorial Supplies donated cleaning supplies and disposable containers. “It was nice to leverage these relationships to do good.” Additional Ralph Brennan Group chefs were coming on Wednesday.
Standing across from Montero cutting onions was Pizza Nola chef/owner Will Samuels.
“We know what it’s like on the receiving end of this,” Samuels said. “When I began seeing the devastation, I thought, ‘What are we going to do? How can we help’?”
10,000 meals in a jiff
At the end of two days, Second Harvest had about 10,000 total meals, Second Harvest chef Susan Goss said.
Once flooding began in Texas, Second Harvest Food Bank was collecting donations of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies and water, said Second Harvest’s Francie Davenport. Texas is currently experiencing a shortage of masks and diapers for adults and children, but continually assessing exact needs.
“Our efforts will be ongoing,” Davenport said. “There will not be a cutoff. We are making sure these people are fed for as long as it takes.”
Davenport said water and non-perishables are collected 365 days a year because beyond disasters, many rely on Second Harvest for sustenance.
“When relief efforts trail off, we try to keep them going as families rebuild throughout the entire crisis,” Davenport said. The easiest and most cost-efficient way to help is to give a monetary donation, since Second Harvest’s buying power is great.
On Sept. 2, Second Harvest prepared 500 meals of some of the same foods – beef stew, red beans and rice, cornbread dressing, apple and pumpkin pies – that were flown by volunteers at Cajun Airlift to the Cy-Fair Helping Hands in Cypress, Texas.
“We like to fix some New Orleans favorites to show we are sending this from New Orleans with love, since Texas was so good to us,” Second Harvest chef Susan Goss said.
Extra help during disasters
This wasn’t the first time these chefs have joined forces to help those in need. Several of the same chefs banded in 2016 after the catastrophic rains that flooded the Baton Rouge area.
“We still had that network together and activated when the tornadoes hit New Orleans East,” Sins said. “Me, a girl with a Facebook page, could get supplies and the people when needed, but Second Harvest does this all the time and do what they do to get things out to people in need.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.