Manhattan chefs regularly donate food, time and money to City Harvest and food pantries
City Harvest keeps a list of the most charitable restaurants throughout the city, or the restaurants who give the most to City Harvest, where over 90 percent of the proceeds go directly to feed New York's hungry. Local, popular restaurants like DBGBs and DirtCandy downtown, as well as Daniel and Fishtail on the Upper East Side, and Shake Shack and Telepan on the Upper West Side top the list.
But perhaps no one knows more about helping New York's needy than local restaurateur and winner of the WESTY award restaurateur of the year, Marc Murphy, owner and chef at Landmarc and Ditch Plains on the Upper West Side. Murphy is the restaurant co-chair of the City Harvest Board, and believes that chefs should do whatever they can to give back to the community.
"The chef and restaurant community helps fight hunger in the city, but it's also a nationwide thing," said Murphy. "Whenever there's a problem, the restaurant community comes together to help."
But what about every day neighborhood restaurants that aren't headed by celebrity chefs, or haven't received a Michelin star? Naomi Downey, the director of special events at City Harvest, said that there are lots of ways that smaller restaurants can help give back.
"The essential part of City Harvest is through food rescue," said Downey. "We're not asking them to create extra food, just for us to pick it up. We aren't asking them to overextend, because small restaurants don't have financial capacity to do that.
For Danny Mena, the owner of Hecho en Dumbo, the popular Mexican restaurant on Bowery and East 4th Street, one of his favorite ways of giving back is through City Harvest's mobile markets program, the open-air bi-monthly free farmer's markets, where chefs and restaurants donate their fresh produce, as well as simple recipes for those in need across the city, in places like the Bronx, Inwood and Bed Stuy.
"One week it was torrential rain and we were all struggling to get there on time, but there was still a huge line of people 600 people waiting for us," said Mena. "We have a recipe and we try to do something with ingredients that are simple and you can get at the market. Everybody needs to eat and feel the satisfaction of being satisfied and that's what we do."
As Naomi Downey explained, even donating a few eggplants and providing a simple, healthy recipe with those eggplants can make a difference. One does not have to be a Food Network chef and attend star-studded functions to make a difference, she said.
Although many chefs donate their time to City Harvest, they can also participate in their communities. Many food pantries in local churches accept donations from restaurants. Danny Mena has said that he has also worked with The Bowery Kitchen before in his neighborhood. And on the Upper West Side, The West Side Campaign Against Hunger is constantly collaborating with neighborhood restaurants. Stewart Desmond, a representative from WSCAH, said that Jacob from Jacob's Pickles helped kick start their herb garden for their hungry and homeless guests. He also said that many local restaurants, like Murray's Sturgeon Shop on Broadway and 89th, La Mirabelle on 86th Street and Celeste on 84th Street, take out ads for WSCAH's spring luncheon.
"For people in the food industry, hunger is something they understand," said Desmond. "In one way or another, they're all involved in giving back."