What innovations will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic? On this episode, host Billy Shore reconnects with noted DC chef Erik Bruner-Yang (Maketto, Brothers and Sisters, ABC PONY, Spoken English) on helping the community. “This has been a wake-up call for me. I’ve always been wading in the water of being a public servant and [I’m] finally jumping into it,” says Bruner-Yang. He recently launched a crowdfunding plan called The Power of 10 that keeps restaurant workers employed while providing free meals to those in need.
“I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life working and building up this neighborhood that we live in, and when this passes, that could all be gone… We can make a difference and leverage the resources we have just to try to keep our communities intact,” he observes. His four restaurants have had to downsize from 225 employees to about 30. “Food security issues have existed long before this pandemic – the pandemic only highlights how bad it is.”
Listen to this informative discussion about one small business owner’s innovative plan to help workers and communities.
Resources and Mentions:
- No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org): Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.
- Erik Bruner-Yang kicked off his hospitality career as general manager of Sticky Rice, a sushi restaurant in Washington DC. Around this time, he developed a deeper appreciation for Taiwanese cuisine. In 2011, he opened Toki Underground, a ramen shop that won Eater DC’s “Best New Restaurant” the same year. Bruner-Yang has since opened several other DC establishments, including Maketto, a three-level Asian market with a retail store, coffee shop, and restaurant; and Paper Horse, a fast-casual ramen stand inside Whole Foods. His most recent projects include two venues inside the swanky Line Hotel: Brothers and Sisters, which interprets global classics from the era of grand hotels, and teensy Spoken English, a standing-room-only space modeled after Japanese tachinomiyas. All Bruner-Yang concepts are housed under the group Foreign National. He was nominated for James Beard’s “Rising Star Chef” in 2015 and was a semifinalist for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” in 2016.
- Maketto is a communal marketplace located in Washington DC combining retail, restaurant and cafe experiences. The 60-seat restaurant is an interpretation of Cambodian and Taiwanese cooking. The retail section of Maketto is a precisely curated mix of international footwear, clothing, accessories, books, and magazines. The café serves local coffee roaster, Vigilante Coffee and provides a full coffee bar experience 7 days a week. Brothers and Sisters is located in the Line Hotel DC lobby and serves American classics with Taiwanese and Japanese influences. ABC PONY is an all-day eatery serving a menu that explores the intersectionality between Italian and Asian cuisines. Spoken English is a Tachinomiya-style neighborhood space located within the LINE DC. This standing-room only restaurant welcomes open-minded patrons willing to engage in new interactions with neighbors, strangers, and friends alike.
- The Power of 10 (Powerof10initiative.com) works to address multiple COVID-19 problems at once: keeping restaurant workers employed, supporting the supply chain of local farmers and vendors and providing free meals to those who need them the most. Restaurants are given $10,000 a week to employ 10 full-time workers and produce 1,000 meals for local health care providers, schools and shelters. The Power of 10 uses donations and grants to support this effort.