Cultural Stories

International Chef Day: Exploring Our Philanthropic Chefs

By Sophie Gragg
In the world of culinary artistry, the passion for food often extends beyond the kitchen. In honor of International Chefs Day, we highlight these exceptional chefs who go beyond the kitchen to champion community causes, uplift the industry, and make a global impact. Join us as we delve into their inspiring journeys, one chef at a time.
Ethan Stowell, the culinary mastermind behind Ethan Stowell Restaurants (ESR), is not just a renowned chef and restaurateur; he's a dedicated advocate for the Seattle community. Seattle's vibrant culinary scene is not only home to ESR's popular dining establishments, such as Goldfinch Tavern, How to Cook a Wolf and Tavolàta, but also to their extensive philanthropic endeavors.

Community support is deeply rooted in ESR's identity. Every year, they contribute over $250,000 in resources to various local causes, showcasing their unwavering commitment to Seattle's well-being. ESR's reach is far-reaching, from assisting individuals experiencing homelessness to supporting children's hospitals.

ESR actively participates in numerous community events, including SMooCH and Generosity in Action, contributing to the city's social fabric. They also support a range of charitable partners, such as the United Way of King County, Seattle Children's Hospital, Mary's Place, Ballard Food Bank, Rainier Scholars, and many more.

Ethan Stowell's restaurants are more than places to savor extraordinary cuisine; they are integral to Seattle's social fabric. ESR's commitment to community building, evident through volunteer events like the ESR Team Service Day and fundraising initiatives like the ESR Holiday Ornaments sale, sets a high standard for community engagement. Whether through volunteer work, fundraising, or supporting local organizations, ESR and Ethan Stowell lead the way in positively impacting Seattle's neighborhoods.

Ethan Stowell and ESR are not just culinary innovators but also community builders, embodying the spirit of Seattle in every way.
Sandra Cordero
RE:Her is a charitable organization dedicated to empowering and supporting women in the restaurant industry. It was founded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic's devastating impact on the restaurant and hospitality sector, disproportionately affecting female chefs, restaurant workers, and entrepreneurs. The organization's mission is to provide relief and support to women in the industry, helping them overcome the unique challenges they face.

RE: Her is co-founded by Sandra Cordero, chef and restaurateur at Gasolina Cafe and Xuntos. Sandra Cordero is no ordinary chef; she's a culinary visionary with a heart dedicated to her community. As a first-generation immigrant, her passion for local farmers and the flavors of her homeland, Spain, inspired her to create something extraordinary. In 2015, she founded Gasolina Cafe, a Spanish-inspired restaurant on Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills, California. It quickly became more than just a place to savor exceptional food; it became the vibrant heart of the community.
Dina Samson
However, Sandra's work with Re:Her truly stands out. In response to the pandemic, Sandra and her team at Gasolina Cafe went above and beyond. They prepared and delivered over 30,000 meals to local healthcare workers, seniors, and underprivileged communities. Their efforts illuminated the power of culinary expertise and community spirit coming together to make a difference.

Notable co-founders of this organization include Mary Sue Milliken, chef and co-founder of Border Grill, and restaurateur Dina Samson, the visionary behind restaurants Rossoblu and Superfine Pizza.
José Andrés, a Spanish-American chef, restaurateur, and humanitarian, is a culinary icon who has profoundly impacted the world of food and disaster relief. He founded World Central Kitchen (WCK), a nonprofit organization that provides meals in the aftermath of natural disasters. WCK's mission is to feed those in need and be a rapid first responder, collaborating with local chefs to tackle the hunger crisis following disasters.

José Andrés gained international recognition for his disaster relief efforts, notably in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Faced with obstacles from FEMA and bureaucracy, he took matters into his own hands, leading a grassroots movement of chefs and volunteers to provide meals and essential resources. In the first month after the hurricane, WCK served over two million meals.

José Andrés was named the 2018 Humanitarian of the Year for his extraordinary humanitarian work by the James Beard Foundation. Besides his humanitarian efforts, he is a respected chef with restaurants across the United States and a professor at George Washington University, where he founded the Global Food Institute. In 2022, he was appointed co-chair of the United States President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, demonstrating his commitment to positive change.
Chef Chris Shepherd created the Southern Smoke Foundation (SSF) in 2015 to raise funds for the MS Society after learning about a friend and former sommelier's diagnosis. Since then, SSF has distributed more than $11 million directly to people in the food and beverage industry via their Emergency Relief Fund, and other grants and charitable donations. SSF is on a mission to provide vital support for food and beverage industry workers, creating a robust safety net when they need it most.

Restaurant jobs can be precarious. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 15% food and beverage industry workers had healthcare coverage. Many lived paycheck to paycheck, struggling with difficult choices between housing, groceries, and healthcare. SSF steps in to help cover these essential costs as a part of their Emergency Relief Fund. In addition, their mental health program Behind You provides no-cost mental health counseling for F&B workers and their families in California, Illinois, Louisiana, New York and Texas.
Matt Horn
However, SSF's work is about more than just providing financial support. It's also about community. A group of dedicated chefs has thrown their weight behind this initiative, strengthening its mission by participating in the Southern Smoke Festival and other charitable events.

Chef Matt Horn: This self-taught chef opened Horn Barbecue in Oakland, California, in 2020 amidst the challenges of the pandemic. Horn Barbecue quickly garnered recognition, receiving a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2021 and a nomination for the 2022 James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant. Beyond his culinary ventures, Matt Horn runs the Horn Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to food equity and social justice.
Chef Felipe Riccio: Born in Mexico, Felipe Riccio, now based in Houston, brings a fusion of flavors. As chef/partner at Goodnight Hospitality, he's known for his work at Rosie Cannonball and March, named a 2021 Best New Restaurant by Esquire. In 2022, Felipe was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Texas.
Chef Carlos Lamagna: Filipino-American chef Carlo Lamagna is the chef-owner of Magna Kusina in Portland, Oregon, which showcases modern Filipino cuisine. Lamagna's commitment to his craft earned him a spot on Food & Wine's Best New Chefs list in 2021 and a nomination for the 2022 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific.
These chefs are not only masters of their craft but also champions of a noble cause. They've thrown their culinary expertise behind the Southern Smoke Foundation, demonstrating that the food and beverage industry is a community where support can go beyond the kitchen and into the lives of those who need it most.
Erik Bruner-Yang, a celebrated chef and restaurateur at Maketto and the visionary behind The Power of 10, is on a mission to redefine the role of independent neighborhood restaurants during challenging times, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. He understands the invaluable place these restaurants hold in our communities, where they become an extension of our homes, the backdrop for first dates, anniversaries, birthday celebrations, and the venues for school charity functions.

The Power of 10 Initiative is grounded in the belief that the restaurant community, with its dedicated and resilient workforce, can be a beacon of hope during challenging times. The initiative's strategy is clear: by providing financial support, such as $10,000 a week, a restaurant can maintain its operations, create ten full-time jobs, and provide 1,000 free meals to its local community.

Erik Bruner-Yang's vision is simple yet powerful: empower neighborhood restaurants to employ their staff, sustain their operations, and serve those in their communities most in need. The initiative demonstrates that the collective power of individuals and organizations can create a ripple effect, transforming communities one restaurant at a time.
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