In March, Melissa Miranda of new Beacon Hill restaurant Musang, Chera Amlag of Hood Famous Bakeshop, enterprising local chef Tarik Abdullah, Kristi Brown and Damon Bomar of That Brown Girl Cooks!, Sugar Hill’s Guitar Srisuthiamorn, and Cameron Hanin of the popular Guerilla Pizza Kitchen popup formed Seattle Community Kitchen Collective to ensure people in need could get a hot meal seven days a week, no questions asked. Miranda told us how it all came together.
As Musang closed, I started talking to folks—like my partner, he works as a teacher in Federal Way. Before the school system shut down, so many kids relied on it for two meals a day. My team made the call, let’s do a community kitchen and figure it out as we go. Folks donated money, product, non-perishables, containers. Each day, the number of people needing food increased. This couple picks up meals for families from Maple Leaf Elementary twice a week, there’s a flower shop in the University District delivering meals for homeless folks. Other people just call.
I’m really close with these chefs. We’d all been on a text thread and saw we were all thinking the same thing. We thought, if we have a collective, we can serve folks every single day. We’d all met working with nonprofits, like FareStart, so head and heart aligned.
At Musang, Community Kitchen serves 200 people a day. Each week my team would see what we have and build a menu that stretches what we’ve got. We did baked potatoes and chili one day; today it’s lamb meatball banh mi with tomato and cabbage. Last week we had lamb ragu with sauteed greens. Every day it’s fresh; every day it’s different. We want this food to be nourishing and healthy.
Everyone within the Collective is really creative, [like selling] a meal kit and having a percentage go into the Community Kitchen program so we don’t have to rely on donations. We want to figure out a sustainable model to create an actual business, and eventually maybe a space where we feed people every day of the week.
As we reopen, we have carte blanche to rethink what we do; restaurants aren’t ever going to run the same way. The model is already so fragile, but it’s been a blessing to have some foresight and just be creative and think about, what can we do to sustain both? —as told to Allecia Vermillion.