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Westchester Chefs Start the Million Gallons Challenge

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Fin & Brew chef Mike Anastacio makes soup to donate to Million Gallon.
Photo by Enormous Creative

With waiters, hostesses, dish washers, and other restaurant staff wondering when they’ll see another paycheck, a number of chefs across Westchester are at the stoves of their otherwise closed eateries making soup for industry colleagues who are struggling under the COVID-19 restrictions.

“There is an economic bomb slowly exploding in front of us,” says Eric Korn, executive chef at Monteverde at Oldstone in Cortlandt Manor who, along with Louie Lanza, head of Peekskill-based Hudson Hospitality Group, is spearheading the ambitious Million Gallons initiative to cook soup for unemployed restaurant workers, and anyone who needs it. “I can’t explain why,” says Korn, “but, from my brain to my bones, everything tells me to do whatever I can to get soup made.” He notes that soup is “easy to store, transport, and disperse, and also is boiled for safety’s sake.”

Chef Eric Korn, co-founder of the Million Gallon. Photo by Enormous Creative

Using ingredients that would go to waste in their normally busy kitchens and donations from Feeding Westchester, chefs — some from popular county restaurants, including Mogan Anthony (Village Social, Pubstreet, Locali, Fatt Root), The Whitlock’s Matt Safarowic, Fin & Brew’s Mike Anastacio, David DiBari (Eugene’s, The Parlor, The Cookery), and Navjot Arora of Chutney Masala and Sambal — have stepped up to take part.

In just over a week’s time, more than 1,000 gallons of soup have been stockpiled in restaurant freezers across the county. (Feeding Westchester is donating enough provisions to make a thousand gallons of soup per day.) On Sunday, about 100 out-of-work restaurant employees retrieved a batch, and another pick up is planned for the coming weekend. “Most everyone seems healthy,” Korn says. “But, many people are sick. When there’s a crisis, we cook, like we did after 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.”

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Help us by cooking soup! If you aren’t a chef, and can’t cook 100 gallons, you can still help spread the word. Post and tag us! #Repost @ms_westchester 🍲 Times like this call for comfort food and nothing is more comforting than my moms chicken soup. 🥣 Thanks @breakfastatetiffany for inspiring me to share this recreation of one my childhood favorites to bring awareness to the #milliongallons initiative! Everyone has been impacted by the spread of COVID-19. Watching my westy restaurant friends and fam deal with the uncertainty of the future while supporting their employees through this whole ordeal has been heartbreaking, but here is how making soup helps- Join @chefwic @christinadrakeeats @erickornchef @chefdansabia and more in their latest endeavor with @milliongallons, an organization that has been mobilized by local chefs who are coming together to make soup and help others in need. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It started with local restaurants pledging to make gallons of soup to:⁣⁣⁣ ☑️ Keep their staff working after being forced to close⁣⁣⁣ ☑️ Eliminate food waste due to restaurant closures⁣⁣⁣ ☑️ Feed/support food insecure people in our community, especially food service and restaurant workers. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ But that’s not enough. We want it to go viral! How can YOU help restaurants participating in the #milliongallons initiative? ⁣⁣I challenge my friends @thedylanjader @simplybysimone @jackiegiardina @westchestercarbdashian @mamawestchester and ALL OF YOU to get involved.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ 📷 POST a photo/video/recipe of you or your family making soup with the hashtag #milliongallons and tag @milliongallons to help spread awareness of this initiative. ⁣⁣ ⁣ ❤️ Consider donating $10 to the @milliongallons relief fund at the link in their bio ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ 💪🏻 All money raised through these efforts go directly to the employees of the participating restaurants. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ 👭🏻 While you’re here like, share to your story, and tag a friend in the comments to challenge them as well. Let’s get to #milliongallons!⁣ .⁣ .⁣ .⁣ #lohudfood #westchestercounty #hudsonvalleyeats #nycfood #fwx #hudsonvalley #lohud #eastchester #scarsdale #dobbsferr

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Korn, who has whipped up a few hundred gallons himself (think classic chicken and pork belly with ginger and lime), is amazed by how his colleagues have banded together. “Chefs have a few days of money left and then their life’s work is gone,” he says. “Yet, they are most worried about their teams.” 

Christian Petroni, chef-owner of the Fortina Group restaurants and Food Network celebrity has also joined the movement, adding his multiple locations as cooking and distribution centers in Mount Kisco, Yonkers, and Stamford, CT.

To keep the momentum going, Korn is asking Westchester residents (and others) to cook soup and post pictures on social media using the hashtag #MillionGallons and tagging @MillionGallons, and to make a $10 donation via the Million Gallons website. “We’re all home. Let’s start making a gallon of soup on every stove. Apart, but together in this,” Korn says.

Donations won’t be limited to the restaurant community, but will be available to anyone in need. “When someone is sick, you give them soup,” explains Korn. “And, it’s going to be really good soup, too.”

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