Smoke Kitchen

A massive collaboration of chefs and hospitality professionals hopes to provide some comfort to those most affected by bar and restaurant closures.

Disclaimer: This story was first published on my personal blog, linked below.

The ability to comfort someone at a time like this is not a gift that should be squandered. While restaurants all over pivot their business to meet the demands of an ever-changing marketplace in the COVID-19 era, one group of people are coming together to help those most affected – the multitudes of bar and restaurant employees whose professional lives are currently in limbo. With no immediate relief in sight, any form of solace these days is a welcome escape. As any chef knows, providing someone with a great meal when they are down can, at the very least, raise their spirits and nourish the soul. So, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, a plan to do just such a thing was developing.

This Sunday (3/22) at 11 am PST, Heritage Barbecue will be providing free barbecue pulled pork sandwiches to industry professionals. (The pork in question was sourced from West Coast Prime Meats in Brea) The event will be held at Craft House in Dana Point, with several other notable chefs volunteering their time to execute the function. Per social distancing practices, the event will be drive-through only, with no person having to exit their car to receive a meal. All proper safety precautions are being taken by crew in question, and Craft House’s unique location will excellently service the event’s need for precautionary steps. Chef/Owner of Heritage Barbecue Daniel Castillo (who is still on track to open a standalone venue for Heritage in San Juan Capistrano later this year) not only wants to feed people but start a movement. Taking care of those whose professions were to take care of others now that they need it most.

The operation is prepared to serve around 600 vehicles, at a limit of 2 sandwiches per car. Castillo is overseeing all of the meat, wood, providing his smokers, and expertise. Chef/Owner of Craft House Blake Mellgren is graciously providing his restaurant space and will be on-hand for the event, with a heavy-hitting roster of local talent ready to assist. Chefs Ralph Montes (Taco Maria), Trevor Kotchek, and Josh Lozano will be on hand, with Emblem Media Productions, Jill Cook, and Niyaz Pirani covering media and communications. The crew is being kept small to observe current health and safety mandates, but all steps are being taken to ensure a fast service for all attendees. OC Baking Company head Dean Kim is graciously providing over 1000 buns for the 350 lbs of pulled pork to be served on.

If you are an industry professional who has been affected by COVID-19, keep Sunday free. Take the drive to Dana Point and follow the smoke signals to Craft House. You won’t be sorry. Barbecue is a labor of love – much like working in the restaurant industry. It takes time, sacrifice, and is very demanding work. A perfect metaphor than for the industry, albeit an incredibly delicious one. Daniel Castillo knows this, which is why he wants to start this movement of providing relief, in whatever capacity, for anyone affected. And this team of fantastically talented and generous volunteers intends to work with him to accomplish this.

This is about more than just feeding people – it is about a tight-knit community of family members who need help in their hour of need. About people who spend their working lives taking care of others and now need to be taken care of. Sunday’s event aims to do just this, as the entire hospitality industry has been rocked by recent events. A simple thing, like a lovingly prepared meal, can do just this. Lifting people’s spirits by providing something delicious, and familiar, while also sending a message to the world of just how dedicated, loving, and big this community is. People deserve every advantage and form of relief that can be provided to them, and this Sunday will look to do just that.

Original story:


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