COVID-19 Culinary Creativity

Members of the Palm Beach County food scene stepped up to feed those in need.

Photos by Think.Shop/H3

After having to lay off 650 employees overnight, Rodney Mayo, owner of Sub-Culture Group, converted his heartbreak into handiwork. Roping in contacts from across the county, Mayo redirected the energy he normally pours into his bustling restaurant business and launched Hospitality Helping Hands, or H3.

Restaurateur Rodney Mayo of Sub-Culture Group created Hospitality Helping Hands to feed those who lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was so immediate, we really didn’t have any answers for them other than filling out unemployment and waiting for a stimulus check, but we told all our staff that we would always keep one or two of the restaurants open just to feed them and their families,” says Mayo. “We reopened Howley’s the following day and had a line a mile long.”

H3 served 800 meals that first day and extended its efforts to all laid-off workers, regardless of industry. Within weeks, H3 had served 100,000 hot meals—and in so doing, put 100 restaurant staff members back to work.

As part of these efforts, H3 mobilized seven locations in West Palm, Delray, and Boca Raton, producing an average of 3,000 meals per day. Its team also set up a weekly grocery distribution point to hand out pantry staples and other necessities, such as diapers, by the thousands. While this initiative has helped those in great need, it also kept long-time local hot spots like Dada, Hullabaloo, and The Dubliner in the food-service business, but in a whole new way.

One for One 

Chef Blake Malatesta, culinary director of Space of Mind Schoolhouse’s nonprofit Community Classroom Project, began selling meal boxes—complete with interactive cooking demos—containing all the ingredients needed for families to prepare a fresh, healthy dinner together. For each box purchased, one is donated to a family in need.

Photo by Alissa Dragun

Making Provisions

Ember Group launched Buccan Provisions as a way to give back, converting Grato, a popular restaurant in West Palm Beach, into a cost-effective production facility for high-quality, nutritious meals. In its first three weeks, the organization partnered with other local nonprofits to serve 14,000 meals to vulnerable communities, including frontline medical personnel and newly unemployed workers.

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