As the unprecedented Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, restaurant operators and customers across the United States are protesting Russian products and raising relief money for the Ukrainian crisis. Many restaurants are fundraising for José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, as the humanitarian chef flew to the Ukrainian-Polish border on Feb. 25 to feed refugees arriving in the neighboring country.
Since then, World Central Kitchen has been on the ground near refugee centers, setting up ramen food trucks for people crossing the border from Ukraine into Poland, and even cooking meals for residents stuck in and fighting for Ukrainian cities like Odessa and Lviv.
“It is below freezing tonight & I am meeting so many refugees, families who are escaping & don’t know what’s next,” Andrés said in a video posted to Twitter. “We will do our best not to let them down.”
World Central Kitchen is accepting donations, and many restaurants looking to help relief efforts are raising money for World Central Kitchen to directly feed the thousands of refugees pouring into neighboring countries from Ukraine.
For example, female pastry chefs in Philadelphia are hosting a bake sale at Amanda Shulman’s Her Place Supper Club on March 6 to raise money for World Central Kitchen.
“A small army of the best bakers in Philly are creating delicious baked goods while also raising money for people in the direst of circumstances,” Abby Dahan, pastry chef and founder of Bake School, who helped organize the charitable bake sale said in a statement. “Anything that people can do to help people in Ukraine right now is our number-one goal, and I hope to see a great turnout for a good cause and for food that is good for the soul.”
Outside of Philadelphia, more pastry chefs are joining the fray, like pastry chef Paola Velez, cofounder of Bakers Against Racism, who helped to launch a worldwide bake sale to help raise money for Ukraine,
Other efforts around the country include the #ChefsforUkraine movement in Washington, D.C. which is putting together a charitable dinner on March 21 to raise money for World Central Kitchen’s relief efforts. The campaign is being organized by chefs Kevin Tien and Tim Ma, who created the Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate movement in response to the rise in Asian-American hate crimes during the pandemic.
Multiple restaurants are donating the proceeds from a day’s worth of sales to relief fundraising efforts like WCK and other charities, including restaurants with roots in Ukraine, like Christine’s Cuisine in Detroit, which is known for its Eastern European comfort food like pierogi and borsch and donated 100% of proceeds to the Ukrainian Self Reliance Credit Union on Wednesday, according to Detroit News.
Besides raising money for Ukraine, restaurant operators and their customers are speaking out against the war through measures of solidarity. In New York City, lines have stretched down the block to support Ukranian restaurants in the city’s Little Ukraine neighborhood, particularly Veselka, an East Village diner that has been in business for almost 70 years, while Russian restaurants like the famous Russian Tea Room have been quiet, despite the historic restaurant declaring solidarity with Ukraine in a statement online.
In Austin, a restaurant called Russian House, changed its name to House in solidarity with Ukrainians, with owner Varda Monamour telling local news station KXAN that ‘The House’ now means “the house for everyone.”
Many other restaurants around the country have also stopped serving Russian products, or literally poured out bottles of vodka in protest, like Evel Pie in Las Vegas, which is also selling $5 shots of Ukrainian vodka with proceeds going to the Red Cross. One Kansas City restaurant renamed its Moscow Mules to Snake Island Mules.
Knead Hospitality + Design in Washington, D.C., is no longer selling Russian vodkas to boycott Russian products until the war is over.
"The tragedy in Ukraine is absolutely heartbreaking,” Knead cofounder Jason Berry told Nation’s Restaurant News. “We want to help as much as we can to support the urgent needs of children and families as they seek refuge in neighboring countries. […] That is why we chose to donate proceeds of our punch sales to UNICEF. A foundation that focuses on protecting children’s rights to a safe, healthy, and happy childhood, a childhood not filled with war and violence. We hope by donating a portion of sales from all of our restaurants we can be a small piece of aid in the horrific events we are seeing today."
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