NYC restaurant groups forming disaster relief charities to aid laid off staff

chefs – Gavin Kaysen, Sean, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse
Caption: Chefs Gavin Kaysen, Sean, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse.

In the wake of COVID-19 devastating the livelihoods of many in the service industry, some of the city’s larger restaurant groups are going to bat for employees that can’t get shifts during this trying time.

Major restaurant conglomerates Thomas Keller Group and Union Square Hospitality are currently working to create employer-sponsored, “disaster relief” charities that will create funds to be given to laid-off and let go workers. 

Those two groups are behind some of the NYC’s most iconic eateries, such as chef Thomas Keller’s 3 Michelin ranked Per Se and Union Square’s Gramercy Tavern among other restaurants that employ troves of workers. 

Noting how the dining industry “abruptly came to a halt,” Sean Weissbart, the non-profit lawyer in charge of this project told that those groups along with chef Gavin Kaysen’s Minnesota based Soigne are all on board to create the relief charities.

“Setting up this type of charity is much easier than you think,” Weissbart said, recommending that restaurants take this approach rather than just doing a GoFundMe page for support since donors can be incentivized by income tax deductions.

Earlier this week, many already began the procedure of filing off the 501c3, nonprofit applications to the IRS, according to the lawyer and NYU Law professor, who noted that these kinds of “disaster relief” charities were modeled after the events of 9/11 and natural disasters. 

Weissbart, who sits on the board of Keller’s culinary youth ment’or BKB Foundation, noted that many of the groups’ charities have already been formed while mentioning another philanthropic project is also in the oven by ment’or.

While the main purpose of that foundation is to train and sponsor team USA for the Bocuse D’or, better known as the culinary Olympics, the group is now working on creating a fund for the general culinary community during this unprecedented time for the food industry.