Edible Monterey Bay

Chefs Launch Fund for Restaurant Workers, Aid for Food Bank

May 19, 2020 – The Monterey Bay Chapter of the American Culinary Federation was ready to celebrate a legend in a few weeks by way of its annual President’s Gala and Chef of the Year Dinner.

For Chef of the Year Bert Cutino, founding chef and co-creator of The Sardine Factory, that came with a little taste of deja vu.

“I told them they could honor another chef since I already won Chef of the Year back in the day,” says Cutino, who received the local award in the 1980s, and has also won ACF Chef of the Year regionally and nationally. “They would not take me up on my offer. Maybe it’s because I’m 80 years old and on my way out.”

But the big event, like so many others, has been cancelled.

The chapter’s executive director Claudia P. Quirarte pledges that won’t prevent them from honoring Cutino in 2021—or 2022, if need be.

“He has not stopped giving back,” Quirarte says. “He’s so instrumental in getting chefs together for everything—Meals on Wheels, Rancho Cielo, Food Bank for Monterey County, Culinary Classique d’Elegance.”

The local chapter of the ACF is not sitting idle in the meantime. Instead they’re rallying funds with a donation drive to support workers rendered at-risk by restaurant closures.

ACF Monterey Bay president Soerke Peters

“We are concerned about those kitchen workers that may not be able to access unemployment due to immigration status,” ACF President Soerke Peters said in a message to Edible Monterey Bay. “We are hopeful to help as many as possible who are burdened financially due to COVID-19.”

Donating to ACF Monterey Bay Chapter COVID-19 Culinary Relief Fund is simple and straightforward. 

The ACF chapter has pledged to match up to $6,000.

“They are the employees that prepare your favorites when you dine in our local restaurants,” Peters wrote in an open letter to ACF chapter members. “Many of them worked two jobs to survive on the Monterey Peninsula. They need your help now.”

At the same time ACF is working to raise awareness about current shortages at The Food Bank for Monterey County.

Colin Moody of Pasadera Country Club is leading a partnership in cahoots with Pebble Beach Food & Wine’s Dorothy Maras and James Velarde, Aquaterra’s Dory Ford, U.S. Foods main man and ACF chapter Social Media Director Bill Cox, and Big Sur Food & Wine founder Toby Rowland Jones. 

The consciousness push includes a Feed the Need video challenge. Chefs like Esteban Jimenez, Tamie Aceves, Todd Fisher, Jacques Zigouri, Tony Baker, Tim Wood, Paul Corsentino, Jaques Wilson and Moody have all posted short videos to alert their respective followers to that aspect of the crisis. 

“They depleted six months’ worth of food in a few weeks,” Moody says. “We’re saying to our audience, ‘We’re chefs and we care about getting food to people, did you know the Food Bank is getting crushed by demand and can really use your support?’

“We really want to support our restaurant community and we’re doing that for our workers every way we can, but there’s more to be done as we are reminded that we’re all in this together.”