Dishing Out Generosity

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - September 14, 2005
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Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is. Name names, point fingers and let everybody know what’s going on. Trouble is, the restaurant industry is so huge that it would take more pages than I have.

So this is for all the guys who volunteer above and beyond their shifts to work the fundraisers. It’s for all the bartenders and waiters and busboys who come in on their nights off and work for free. And it’s to every chef and restaurant owner, who, before I even finished asking for their help, had already said yes. It’s for everyone who asked “what do you need?” and “how can we help?“And it’s especially for the few who are overworked and understaffed and still asked “what can we do to help?” The response by the food and beverage industry to fundraising calls for victims of Hurricane Katrina has been the same as always. Yes. We’ll help. What can we do?

What you probably don’t realize when you attend food and wine fundraisers is that for some of the chefs and liquor distributors, it’s the third or fourth charity event they will have done in a month. For some participating in the Chefs for Hope fundraiser at Aloha Tower next Monday, it will be their fourth event in just eight days. And while the New Orleans disaster is something almost beyond our imagination - the requests for help are nothing new to the industry.

A couple of the chefs I spoke to have three fundraisers back to back. Some of them get solicitations for donations three and four times a day. A day. Think about it. In one famous restaurant’s case they add up to almost 1,200 request a year.

Fred DeAngelo, George Sigeti, Hiroshi Fukui,
Dean Okimoto and Colin Nishida

What other industry is called on so often, for so much?

There is no other industry I know that responds so magnificently to tragedy, so humbly to need and so empathetically to disaster.

I can’t mention them all - but I barely need to. They are your neighborhood restaurants. They are the biggest and the most well known; the smallest and the most anonymous.

They are multimillion-dollar corporations in their own right, and they are one-man/woman operations passionately doing what they love.

They are students and culinary teachers and graduates, happy to have found their mission in life.

They are waiters, van drivers, liquor distributors and salesmen.

They are a huge part of the vitality of our community. They are there when we want to celebrate, and they are whom we turn to when disaster strikes and we need to help raise money.

And while chefs have been organizing fundraisers, an extension of the food industry, the Foodbank, has been quietly getting to work. As government agencies squabbled about responsibilities, the National Foodbank sent 200 trucks and 6.4 million pounds of food to the Gulf Coast, and served more than 5 million meals to starving Americans while other agencies wondered where to start.

Those of you who read these columns know I love the food and beverage industry. I hope now you know why.

Happy eating!

The Chefs For Hope Fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina takes place Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. at Aloha Tower Marketplace. For more details go to

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