Westchester Chefs Start the Million Gallons Challenge

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.

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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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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.

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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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