Chefs Share Their Heartbreaking Reactions to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Maple & Rose
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

“It’s simply devastating for restaurants everywhere. We had to let go of just about everyone on our team for the time being. We are fortunate to have the technology in place to do an effective takeout and delivery business. Customers have been very supportive and want to do everything they can to make sure their favorite spots are still around when we get through this. That said, we’re seeing about a 70 percent decline in business; it’s not sustainable for a long period.”

—Matt Gorney, Maple & Rose, Mamaroneck


“Safety is the key right now. Let’s take action, even when that feels like doing nothing.”—Joana Herrera, Mariachi Mexico, Armonk


“Over 35 years I have seen my share of difficulties, however no one has ever experienced the totality of this coronavirus pandemic. It’s extraordinarily difficult to see my staff and team struggle through this. The havoc is having a devastating effect. We all need to support our local community and offer assistance to those [more] needy than ourselves. As my mother often said, ‘I cried I had no shoes ’til I met the man who had no feet.’”

—Peter X. Kelly, X2O Xaviars on the Hudson, Yonkers


“Closing the restaurants before we were mandated to do so was a major decision that weighed on me heavily. Instead of trying to put a few employees on a few shifts per week doing pickup and delivery, I decided the best way to help was to jump into the Million Gallons movement. The backbone of the hospitality industry is hard-working hourly employees, most of whom live paycheck to paycheck, and they just can’t find work right now. To feed the local hospitality community has become my mission.

—Louie Lanza, Hudson Hospitality Group (Fin & Brew, The Eagle Saloon, Buns-N-Bourbon, Taco Dive Bar, The Hudson Room), Peekskill

“As a new member of the Westchester community, I am humbled by the love and support our entire team has received from our new friends in Rye. As we navigate these unprecedented times, I’m committed to supporting my team and the industry. [Last] week, I began extending two full dinners per week to my team members and their families to help them through this difficult time. I’m counting down until it’s safe for our staff and guests to return to business as usual, and trust me when I say that I cannot wait to be cooking in Rye again.”

—Brian Lewis, OKO, Rye


“I think this is going to drag on for a few months, and the recovery could be more than a year or two if the government cannot isolate everyone at home. We can take a business hit for a couple of months, but if the situation drags, we are going to see a lot of restaurants close. People are out of patience; workers are going to change their careers. This is devastating for our industry.”

—Peter Liu, O Mandarin, Hartsdale

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“The biggest effect this has had is on our income. [Currently,] our sales are 20 percent of what they were on a good day. On the upside, I have never experienced such humanity, good will, and expressions of a hopeful future.”

—Paul Molakides, Boro6 Wine Bar, Hastings-on-Hudson

“The impact on the restaurant industry has been devastating. Restaurants run a very thin profit margin, and they rely on daily revenue to be able to operate and maintain staff. By cutting off 95 percent of revenue, [while still having] some fixed expenses, it is nearly impossible to operate or come back from this catastrophe. We hope the government thinks about small businesses when passing any kind of relief or legislation, and [does] not focus only on large industries and corporations.”

—Edwin Montoya, Appétit Bistro, Port Chester


Every day is a battle between feeling helpless and jumping up to help in any and every possible way. [We’re] making soup for the Million Gallons initiative, advocating for our industry, fundraising, checking in with staff and making sure they’re okay financially and emotionally, and throwing in some self-care. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure our restaurants reopen with all of our staff on the other side of this thing.”

—Christina Safarowic, The Whitlock and Jay Street Café, Katonah


“It has been a reminder of what Westchester is made of. We are made of people that look after one another, support one another. So yes, we’ve had to cut employee hours. Yes, our sales have dropped. Yes, this puts a pause on everything that we had planned for this year. But we have seen a community rally around our business and continue to order from us and support us. It has been difficult, but we know that we will get through this. We will need help, but we know that this too shall pass.”

—Carlos Santos, Aqui Es Santa Fe, Port Chester

“The effect has been completely devastating. We laid off all but four people to do to-go and delivery service. We are doing one tenth of what we used to do for sales. The support from the community has been overwhelming, with some people tipping 50 percent on bills. I could not be more grateful.”

—Dale Talde, Goosefeather, Tarrytown

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“If there is a positive I’ve seen through this, it’s that the community has really made us feel loved. Not only are people ordering food, but they are lifting us up with kindness. It’s been great to see that, even while people are dealing with their own issues, we are all in this together.”

—Nick Triscari, The Wooden Spoon, New Rochelle


“Everyone is scrambling to do what they can to help those who need it most. It’s unclear what the restaurant industry will look like when this is all over, and a lot of owners are nervous. There has been a lot of support from the community, but there needs to be more. Buy gift cards, donate to your local restaurant’s gofundme, and order takeout from those of us that are still open. There has been a uniform 80 to 90 percent loss of business.”

—Chris Vergara, Harper’s in Dobbs Ferry, Saint George in Hastings-on-Hudson, Meritage in Scarsdale


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