The Kingpin's Message to the Palm Beach ACF
It seems that 2020 is going to be one of the most haunting and unforgettable years for most of us. For some of you, if I said, Houston and Elm, you remember JFK. If I mention January 28th, 1986, most of us recall the Space Shuttle Challenger instantly. The year 2020 is filled with events that will forever be in our minds. We have heard new terms (and quite frankly never want to hear them again), such as social distancing/PPE/PPP/pivot/COVID-19, among others. On May 24th, the NY Times front page listed the names of 100,000 people that have succumbed from COVID-19. It was heartbreaking and eyeopening! https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/24/us/us-coronavirus-deaths-100000.html.
Here locally, the shutdown began on March 17th. We have seen many of our hospitality friends have to change gears overnight. Some were able to quickly modify their business to offer takeout and delivery services. Sadly, others were not so lucky and were forced to shut down causing many people to lose their jobs. Many struggled and are still struggling to apply for and receive their unemployment benefits. Through these difficult times, we have also seen shining stars appearing as helping hands for our fellow hospitality friends. Triple H, the Lord's Place, Meals on Wheels, Chef Corp, Oumph, and The Palm Beach Caterers were among some of the wonderful agencies that were helping out. These companies offered free meals to hospitality workers, many on a daily basis.
In Phase One of the reopening, we witnessed a gentle reopening of dine-in restaurants to a 25% capacity. Phase Two allowed for these restaurants to open up to 50% capacity, as well as some openings of hotels and cities to tourists. This was all seen as an opening to getting back to normal. Many people were excited and ready, then tragedy struck. An individual, of flesh and blood, a father, a son, a friend, and a man of color was murdered by individuals sworn to protect and serve. His name was George Floyd.
For the longest time, I have been trying to put my thoughts into words. Like many of you, I was sickened, angered, and heartbroken by what happened. His life mattered. He mattered and the legacy his death is leaving behind will matter. Through this tragedy, I am hopeful by the protests that occurred and are still happening to affect change. It has been a long time coming and desperately needed.
It should come as no surprise to you that our kitchens are full of diversity. It is amazing. It is awesome. It is a representation of our community. We as chefs have welcomed all walks of life into our kitchens. Some of us came from nothing. Some of us had trouble with the law be it drugs, stealing, poor choices, etc. Some of us have alternative lifestyles. Some of us came from another country. Many of us speak a foreign language and yes, many of us are people of color. Our history of the American Culinary Federation has been touched by ALL diverse walks of life. We, Chefs, Leaders in our field and our kitchens need to speak on behalf of those that have felt this injustice. For if we do not speak for those that are affected by injustice, who will be left to defend you when there is no one to speak up for you and the injustice you might face. Racism is the religion of the ignorant. I implore you all to have conversations in your pre-shift and talk about justice, unity, and community.
It is 2020. The time is now that we, the soul of our community, lead the balance for all. We should not tolerate any form of racism, including sexism in our kitchen. Now, more than ever, our "family meals" need to be about listening to our staff. Listen to their battles, and what they go through. Listen to what they aren't saying too. Take the time to walk in their shoes and understand what they go through. Create the change and then be the change.
It's the 21st Century, and it is time that we see past color, religious beliefs, sexism, and sexual preference. We are all human and need to be blind to the hate. We stand together as humans with open hearts and minds. The hospitality industry is one of the most diverse industries in the world, and that's what makes us strong. Let's embrace that diversity in and out of the kitchen. The reality is we are a patchwork of people from diverse backgrounds that create the quilt of humanity!