Uncertainty. That’s what keeps Cincinnati chef Jose Salazar awake at night. It’s probably true for most of us: We don’t know how long this lockdown will last, and we don’t know what unlocking it will look like or what other type of restrictions will be imposed on the restaurants we love and miss.
One thing is certain: We all depend on services from a multitude of neighbors in the hospitality industry who are now among our most vulnerable. To protect them and their presence in the future, we can support Chef Salazar, who is doing what every chef is trained to do—assess the reality and confront it promptly to get the service right.
After the required closure of Salazar’s three restaurants on March 16, Jose and key staff from the Salazar Restaurant Group have been fearlessly providing solutions in this time of great uncertainty. Goose + Elder was immediately adapted for takeout. Three days later, Mita’s at Fifth and Race downtown was repurposed for the Restaurant Workers Relief Program in partnership with Chef Edward Lee. Approximately 250 hot meals are distributed to unemployed restaurant workers seven days a week from 4-7 p.m. Workers simply need to show a paystub from a restaurant to qualify. At Mita’s, they are also distributing urgently needed products such as diapers, formula, household products, and various canned or packaged food items.
Many in the community have lent support to Mita’s relief program, including La Soupe and the Freestore Foodbank. Extra food is going to Tender Mercies. Read more below to find out how to help.
If you need more inspiration, consider how Salazar and his team have mobilized so decisively to transform “service” from fine dining to life support. “Seeing my staff and watching them push through this, and be fearless, and continue to do everything to make people happy, that has been the most inspiring,” Salazar says. “Because we are in the hospitality industry, regardless of what happens, it’s important that we keep that in mind. They have been amazing. Every day I come around and tell them how wonderful and how great a job they’re doing and how proud I am of them.”
For those of us who are fortunate to have housing, employment, and healthcare insurance, our mission is not that difficult: Maintain safe physical distancing, order takeout, tip generously, and donate to good causes like the Restaurant Workers Relief Program.
OTR in Action:
To help the Restaurant Workers Relief Program (Lee Initiative):
- Donate money to LeeInitiative.org. You are able to designate your donation to go Cincinnati. This allows Mita’s to purchase fresh food for daily dinners.
- Bring non-perishable food donations to Goose + Elder at 1800 Race Street. Hours: 11:30 am to 8 pm Tuesday through Sunday. Do not bring items to Mita’s.
To help the Salazar Restaurant Group (and all your neighborhood restaurants):
- Support furloughed employees of the Salazar Restaurant Group: Donate to their Go Fund Me campaign, and shop at their Bake Sale every Sunday from noon to 2 pm at Goose + Elder.
- Order takeout regularly, and tip generously!
Goose + Elder is open six days per week from 11:30 am to 8 pm (closed Mondays). Look for specials on their Instagram page.
Eric Hammer has worked in public radio, high school teaching, and information technology, and his wife Mindy works for the Freestore Foodbank. The couple renovated an OTR home in 2014 and have fallen in love with OTR’s amazing people, food, and performing arts.
OTR in Action is a series of stories from local creative writers with strong ties to Over-the-Rhine. The OTR Chamber paired them with neighborhood businesses to share the wisdom and passion of small business owners who have planted themselves in Over-the-Rhine.