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Though the professionals of Faber Daeufer & Itrato are not able to gather for their annual holiday season dinners, they have found a way to celebrate together – even while apart. This year, the firm will partake in some delicious socially distanced dining, while giving back to businesses and communities hit hard by the pandemic. Each firm employee received a gift certificate to a minority-owned restaurant located within a minority neighborhood. While the principals hope that every employee will use the gift certificates to partake in some amazing meals, the purchases themselves provide an avenue for supporting small minority-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19.
In addition to the gift certificates, the firm is making accompanying donations to several not-for-profit organizations feeding individuals and families in need. Each of these organizations is also actively supported by the chosen restaurants. “I think our firm always eagerly anticipates the annual holiday dinners. And so it’s just another bit of loss to realize that we can’t responsibly gather together this year,” said Joseph L. Faber. “But this idea – of supporting Black-owned restaurants and not-for-profits that work with these restaurants to provide food to hungry families – has really energized us.”
Each firm employee associated with Faber’s Boston office received a gift certificate to 50Kitchen in Dorchester where chef and owner Anthony Caldwell provides an amazing example of perseverance and commitment. “I was never interested in the culinary arts,” he said in an interview with Eater Magazine. “90 percent of my younger adulthood, all I did was sell drugs. That was my 9 to 5; that’s what I did. Gangs, drugs, prison. Gangs, drugs, prison.”
When those choices caught up with Caldwell, he spent more than four years incarcerated. “It took me going to prison to learn a number of valuable lessons, though. And my life was spared, and I was introduced to culinary arts.”
Caldwell said that he used his second chance to give back to his community while sharing his cooking talents with the world. He obtained two culinary certificates and worked at establishments like Legal Seafood and The Sheraton Hotel. He also served as an Executive Sous-Chef at the John Hancock in Boston and Sous-Chef at Harvard University. Caldwell realized his dream of opening his own restaurant after winning a pitch event.
In consideration of the large Vietnamese community within the Fields Corner area of Dorchester, Caldwell created an eclectic menu that features such dishes as banh mi made with smoked brisket, jambalaya egg rolls and kimchi made with collard greens. “I looked around the neighborhood and knew I had to make food that spoke to everyone,” Caldwell said. “I needed to find something that speaks to the Black community and to the Vietnamese community.”
For more information about 50Kitchen, visit https://50kitchen.com/.
In addition to the 50Kitchen gift certificates, Faber is also making accompanying donations to CommonWealth Kitchen (CWK), an organization that Caldwell supports as well. CWK is a food business incubator, brand accelerator and food manufacturing social enterprise that helps more than 50 food-industry businesses through every stage of their journey, from developing business plans to providing fully equipped kitchen spaces.
70 percent of CWK’s member businesses are owned by women and/or people of color. The busy community of culinary entrepreneurs employ over 150 people during their peak production times, of which about 70 percent are also women and/or people of color. Working side by side, these cooks share kitchens, ideas and resources.
Each employee associated with Faber’s New York office received a gift certificate to FIELDTRIP, a Harlem dining experience that celebrates culture through the shared experience of rice. Their mantra, "Rice is Culture,” was born out of Chef JJ Johnson’s belief that rice, located at the center of tables around the world, connects us all.
FIELDTRIP uses heirloom grains to take diners on an international journey, with each rice selection telling a unique story of how it arrived in this country and onto a dinner table. To this end, the restaurant supports small rice farmers around the globe. With a commitment to sustainability, the restaurant pairs its delicious rice bowls with ethically sourced vegetables and proteins.
For more information about FIELDTRIP, visit https://www.fieldtripnyc.com/.
The firm is making accompanying donations to FieldtripFeed, the restaurant’s charitable arm which has been providing healthy meals to frontline workers throughout New York City since the beginning of the pandemic. The organization has also placed its community service efforts on youth, particularly food insecurities and inadequate access to healthy meal options.
Studies show that predominantly Black communities like Harlem have some of the highest rates of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Chef JJ believes that these elevated rates of underlying conditions, which are also tied to severe cases of COVID-19, result from less informed, financially driven food purchase decisions. “Most people are buying rice in the supermarket because they know it is going to last a long time,” Chef JJ said. “The problem is that most supermarkets in Harlem don’t have good quality rice on their shelves. That’s why we also sell wild rice in quart containers and pint containers.”
San Francisco-based employees
Each employee associated with Faber’s San Francisco office received a gift certificate to Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, where Executive Chef Tanya Holland has made a culinary impression with her innovative take on modern soul food and classic comfort cuisine. An established institution within West Oakland, Brown Sugar Kitchen works to break down barriers to success and provide life-changing opportunities for women of color.
One of the restaurant’s many initiatives includes a partnership with payment platform company Marqeta. For every meal donated by diners, Marqeta makes a dollar for dollar match to provide meals to nonprofits, homeless communities, foster youth and low-income families.
For more information about Brown Sugar Kitchen, visit http://www.brownsugarkitchen.com/.
Marqeta has also established the Oaklanders Supporting Oaklanders (OSO) Initiative, which pays restaurants struggling through Covid-19 to provide a few hundred meals a week to nonprofits that support foster youths, families in need and the homeless. Faber is making an accompanying donation to the OSO Initiative to provide meals from Brown Sugar Kitchen for 24 families.
Firm employees living in other areas
Firm employees residing outside of these areas were encouraged to find a minority-owned restaurant in their respective cities that provides a terrific meal while making a difference in the community. U.S. residents were urged to download the EatOkra app. Founded in 2016, this user-friendly Black-owned business directory focuses on Black-owned food and beverage locations. “Gathering and food play a key role in defining our sense of community, and EatOkra provides users with a tool that gives them an opportunity to locate these communities and support them in some way,” states the company’s website. What began as a tool to discover Black-owned restaurants in Brooklyn grew into a premiere resource for Black eateries nationwide, connecting over 150,000 users to more than 2600 Black-owned restaurants, bakeries, cafes, food trucks, bars and wineries.
For more information about EatOkra, visit https://www.eatokra.com/.
Once employees identify a restaurant to support, they can submit for reimbursement of a meal for their family. For those who don’t choose a restaurant by year-end, the firm will send them a gift certificate from 50Kitchen, FIELDTRIP or Brown Sugar Kitchen.
For this group, the firm is also making accompanying donations to World Central Kitchen (WCK), an organization creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty. Through their clean cookstoves initiative, culinary training programs and social enterprise ventures, WCK empowers communities, lessens the impact of large-scale disasters and strengthens economies across the globe.
WCK has provided over 30 million meals in more than 400 cities as COVID-19 weakened traditional safety nets like school feeding programs, city services and food banks. WCK also partners with various restaurants to help them continue employing their staffs and feeding frontline workers.
For more information about World Central Kitchen, visit https://wck.org/.
Hopes for a meaningful holiday season celebration
Faber principals hope that this holiday season dinner alternative will feed every firm employee’s appetite and heart, as they give back to communities in need. “People are talking about their plans to take their family to pick up food from 50Kitchen and then see the lights at the Franklin Park Zoo, or to pick up food from FIELDTRIP and then walk around through the northeast corner of Central Park,” said Joe Faber.
Minority- owned restaurants, and businesses in general, disproportionately receive less funding and financial support from bank lenders, a disturbing trend that has continued throughout the pandemic. “This is a different way for us to help our employees celebrate… maybe a bit truer to the underlying meanings of the season,” said Joe Faber, “and it all results from a simple decision we’ve made this year – to take more care each time we make a business decision, no matter how big or small, to not just do what’s expeditious, but to do what best serves our firm’s values.”