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‘Service Appreciation Day’ Honors Those Hit Hardest by New York’s COVID Shutdown

New York, NY – The Black Chef Movement [BCM], a non-profit dedicated to supporting Black and Brown communities, hosted a “Service Industry Appreciation Day” at Occasions Catering Hall in St. Albans, Queens on February 15.

The purpose of the noon event was to support hospitality and service industry workers, many of whom have lost jobs, were furloughed, or had their hours cut as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The event will also help support three prominent Black chefs and their businesses.

“The Black Chef Movement started during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in June,” says Angelique “Angie” Kingston, director of events for the Black Chef Movement. “I contributed food-wise, donating meals in July from my catering company, Thymeless Catering, and later joined the team in August.”

Over the course of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and other social justice movements, Kingston and the co-founder of the BCM, Rasheeda McCallum, worked with more than 50 chefs to procure food for protesters as well as personal protective equipment (PPE). 

“We were servicing protests, marches, anything that required people to put themselves on the line for any injustice,” the first-generation Guyanese-American events caterer from Far Rockaway says. “People from the community donated packaged goods, we worked with chefs that donated food and different resources in general, like masks and hand sanitizers. We were able to give that right back into the communities that needed the most resources, which unfortunately are communities of color.” 

The food was often nutrient-rich, according to Kingston. 

“Usually, in food deserts, you have access to things that aren’t good to you,” Kingston says. “Oftentimes, what is affordable to your family are just highly-processed and sugary things that aren’t good for your health. We want to fuel these workers with good things that are beneficial to them and their children. There is more to food than what you are aware of because of your neighborhood or surroundings.”

Kingston knows all too well what it is like to work in the service industry. She lost some executive catering work because of COVID-19, but she still has her catering business and teaches culinary classes via the online platform TakeLessons. 

“The service industry is the fabric of New York,” says Kingston. “These workers don’t always get the attention and respect they deserve. We just wanted to let those in the industry know they are seen.”

Francina Best (Bestee’s Catering), Chef Hulando (The Real Veggie Cafe) and Latasha Smith (Occasions Banquet Hall) are also participating  chefs.

The idea for Service Industry Appreciation Day came from Chaele Davis, a pastry chef and the event coordinator for BCM, who joined the group in August. 

“I’ve been out of work since the indoor dining ban justifiably started,” Davis says. “I saw so many of my friends lose their jobs or their hours. There is so much insecurity that comes with working in this industry. This also seems to happen to people in counseling positions or any position that involves taking care of others. I just wanted to acknowledge and highlight these people who was hit hard both by COVID-19 and work loss.”

After working intermittently, Davis was finally offered a full-time position just days before the government lockdown started in New York last March. The job was later rescinded because there were no events to plan.

In December, she was hit by COVID-19, but has since recovered. 

“They reached out to me and said they will hire me when things become normal again, but months passed and things haven’t been normal yet,” says Davis, who recently moved to Ridgewood from Brooklyn. “Because I’m high-risk and my roommate is high-risk, I’m not able to work right now or seek work elsewhere.”

Service Industry Appreciation Day is especially for line cooks, pastry chefs, bartenders, and other service workers, and being sponsored in partnership with the BlaQue Resource Network and QueensTogether.

The BlaQue Resource Network is a network for Black entrepreneurs in Queens to connect. QueensTogether is a non-profit that provides food to frontline workers, essential workers and those facing hunger in the borough. 

“We understand that times are hard now,” says Kingston. “This is just a token of our appreciation.”

Occasions Banquet Hall is located at 127-08 Merrick Boulevard in St. Albans.

The sponsors of the event hope to raise $3,000 to help cover costs.

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