BY TEQUILA MINSKY
There was no way a pandemic was going to stop Le Souk restaurant owner Marcus Andrews from continuing a tradition of giving back on Thanksgiving in Greenwich Village.
“I would be very upset if we couldn’t do this,” said Andrews, who every Thanksgiving provides two sit-down dinner seatings gratis for mostly seniors in his LaGuardia Place restaurant.
Le Souk began this tradition as a way for those without family nearby to enjoy a good holiday meal in the company of others.
Marcus persuaded his collaborating partner, the Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association (BAMRA), which initially cancelled this year’s festivity because of COVID-19, to plan for the dinner. This year it would be different.
“I’ll take care of the details,” he told them, knowing how to adapt to the times.
And so, on their 10th year, challenged by the pandemic, Le Souk carried on with this Greenwich Village Thanksgiving tradition, serving home-cooked, take-out dinners with all the trimmings at no charge to the community.
Volunteers working with Visiting Neighbors, another partner in this annual dinner, arrived mid-afternoon Thursday to pick up 75 meals to home deliver. Neighborhood seniors, informed by word-of-mouth and Greenwich House communications, arrived in the late afternoon.
The freshly prepared take-away dinners including turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, an orange, and of course pumpkin pie, and one protective mask, were ready to go.
A handful of volunteers worked the morning shift, helping with food preparation and plating. Another shift arrived later for more assembly and distribution.
Out front, upper Manhattan City Councilman Mark Levine joined his friend State Committeeman of the 65th Assembly District Chris Marte to distribute the food. Both are candidates in next year’s city election—Levine’s running for borough president, and Marte is seeking the 1st City Council District seat.
Decades of experience cooking for large numbers including these annual meals prepares Ray Cline of BAMRA, the chief chef. He happily joined the effort when restaurant general manager Sam Jacob approached him, “We don’t want this holiday to go by without our traditional dinner.”
Cline underscores how Le Souk is proud to be able to give back to the community in this way.
Le Souk picked up the bill for the food, which included 26 turkeys, roasted in their oven; BAMRA paid for the trimmings and last minute run-outs, such as 120 more pounds of sweet potatoes. Marte bought 25 pumpkin pies and 15 boxes of cookies at Trader Joe’s.
“I started cooking days before,” Cline says, explaining that the 20-22 pound turkeys take 3 1/2 hours to roast. “Sliced after they cool, the meat is kept in the restaurant’s walk in fridge.”
The day before Thanksgiving, local police distributed 50 assembled meals to homeless New Yorkers. On Thanksgiving, Marte took 50 meals to seniors living in housing on the Lower East Side while owner Marcus dropped off whole turkeys with trimmings to the 6th and 9th Precincts.
At the spur of the moment, Soho resident Yuko Otomo helped carry dinners to the cars for home delivery. She fully enjoyed this traditional Thanksgiving meal and commented on the generosity of spirit and good feelings among all of those involved with the dinner.
It takes a village to celebrate Thanksgiving — Greenwich Village that is. And as the nation’s yearly food fest intersected with a Village restaurant’s tradition, even in this difficult time of a pandemic, Le Souk with BAMBRA found a way to continue providing Greenwich Village neighbors a Thanksgiving community dinner.