Feed the Ones Who Feed Us
Here we go again. We’re beginning the fourth week of Ohio’s Stay-at-Home order. In addition to the stress of social distancing, a lot of people are feeling the financial strain starting to take hold. I’m especially thinking now about my friends in the restaurant community.
When I started Cincinnati Food Tours in 2012, I only knew a few merchants at Findlay Market. I spent the next few years building relationships at the market in order to add a variety of vendors so that I could give any interested merchant an opportunity to be involved in my tours. I also felt strongly that I didn’t want to wear out my welcome with any of them; I wanted them to want to “take a turn” and look forward to hosting my tour guests. Over time, I built the foundation of Cincinnati Food Tours–a corps of passionate, like-minded small business owners.
As time went on and we began to explore restaurants in the neighborhoods, I expanded my network of tour partners. One step at a time, I built new relationships with restaurant owners, servers, hosts, and bartenders. I’d try to be among the first to try new places in Over-the-Rhine and to help spread the word about another “new kid on the block.” I still look forward to stopping in to drop off tour schedules, grabbing a bite to eat for lunch, or introducing a group to one of my favorite eateries. Because, most importantly, I look forward to seeing my friends who work at the cafes, bakeries, bars, and restaurants in Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton, and beyond.
As the global pandemic continues, my thoughts turn to these friends in the restaurant community. For 8 years, they have been there to feed me and my tour guests. Now when I walk through the streets of Over-the-Rhine, I see more “Temporarily Closed” signs than people. I wonder how my tour partners, my friends, are doing. Are they struggling to make ends meet? Are enough people buying gift cards or ordering takeout to keep these restaurants afloat? Will the jobs be waiting when the pandemic passes? Or will the restaurants even be able to reopen?
Fortunately, others are thinking of our restaurant industry workers as well. As soon as word spread that restaurants and bars would need to close, The Lee Initiative dove into action. Louisville’s Chef Edward Lee, in partnership with Makers Mark, launched a program to feed restaurant workers and otherwise help with their essential needs. As the Restaurant Workers Relief Program quickly expanded to other cities, Cincinnati Chef Jose’ Salazar took the baton locally and opened his version of the program at Mita’s on 4th Street. They continue to hand out food and other essentials daily from 4-7 pm for restaurants workers in need. It’s like feeding an army of friends every night, from the goodness of the heart.
I miss my local restaurants and the people who work there. I, personally, can’t make dinner for each of these friends each night. However, I can donate to The Lee Initiative and help to connect others to the relief program. In fact, I’m encouraging our followers to purchase our EAT WALK REPEAT tee shirt and help boost our donation to The Lee Initiative. After all, they feed us. Let’s feed them so that we can all get back to what we enjoy doing.