Winter storm Nemo heaped more than a foot of snow onto the city last week, forcing businesses to close early, and New Yorkers to stay indoors. But at St. Bart’s Church soup kitchen on Park Avenue, things were a lot warmer with the help of Chef David Garcelon and the staff of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The night of the storm, with no supplies for his soup kitchen, the Reverend Edward Sutherland, director of the community ministry, called up Chef David Garcelon, asking if he could help them out with supplies the following day. Even though at the time Garcelon was stranded at the airport in Canada, he remotely organized a gigantic dinner for the church. Next door, the kitchen staff at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel came by with only 45 minutes notice with a banquet meal for the 200 people in need.
Reverend Sutherland was amazed at the results.
“It was beautiful,” said Sutherland. “They walk in on Friday during Nemo and our tables are bare. We were thinking we’d get some soup, but they rolled up with chicken, steak, filet. It was amazing.”
But this is not the first time that St. Bart’s and the Waldorf Astoria have collaborated to feed hungry New Yorkers. Every Friday night, the staff at the hotel came by to cook dinner for the women’s shelter, which at the time houses eight women. Then, one Wednesday a month, Chef Garcelon himself brings a team of chefs to prepare breakfast for the soup kitchen.
“Its something my team is happy to do. We’re close neighbors,” said Garcelon. “My chefs feel really good about it. They take just as much pride as putting a meal together for people in the shelter [as in] preparing one for guests.”
It all began a couple of years ago with a few chefs volunteering in the church’s soup kitchen, which led to a meeting with Garcelon and eventually the weekly meals. The hotel also gives St. Bart’s their bread and leftovers, like many other restaurants in the area. They were particularly helpful during Hurricane Sandy, said Sutherland, when the chefs volunteered three days in a row to cook meals for the needy and stranded.
Sutherland said that in the future, he hopes to get some of the women in the shelter interested in learning to cook. He also wants to start a rooftop garden like the one at the Waldorf Astoria, and plans on getting gardening tips from them.
“Most people think of businesses as cold hearted and cruel, but here’s a business who isn’t,” said Sutherland. “Having homeless people eating around the block isn’t particularly helpful to hotels. The [usual] idea with the homeless is ‘we don’t want to see them.’ But they’re reaching out in this special way.”
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