Executive Director, New York City Hospitality Alliance
CREDIT: Terry W. Sanders
New York City is famous for being a melting pot of people and cultures from around the world, and nowhere is diversity more valued or represented than in the city’s restaurant industry. Our restaurants are where the aromas awaken our senses, flavorful cuisines tantalize our taste buds, and when served with hospitality, we are transported to communities around the globe, all without leaving the five boroughs.
To this day, when I walk down the block and my nose catches the scent of pastries being baked, I’m transported back to childhood, working with my grandfather before the crack of dawn at our family’s bakery on Cross Bay Boulevard. Food connects us with the past, makes us appreciate the present, and it possesses the power to unite us as people for a better future.
Whether you live in or are just visiting Queens AKA “The World’s Borough,” you’ll meet neighbors who speak over 160 languages and have opportunities to dine at nearly 7,000 diverse restaurants in a true mecca of culinary delight and hospitality.
Queens was also New York’s epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. The city’s restaurants and their owners, chefs, servers, dishwashers, deliveristas, street vendors, and so many others, were thrust into the eye of the crisis – devastated in incalculable ways. Nearly two years into the crisis, their struggles continue, and they remain essential workers for whom our city’s debt of gratitude will never be fully repaid, but their value and contributions must NEVER be forgotten.
Throughout the pandemic, our brave health care workers have used the marvels of modern medicine and technical devices to care for us; our dedicated writers and reporters used pens, keyboards, and microphones to tell stories that captured the moment; and our chefs used worldly ingredients to prepare the cuisines that connect us with humanity.
The Queens Chef Project is a remarkable initiative that presents 50 chefs of different nationalities, each of whom share unique stories about an object in their restaurant that holds a special place in their craft, and, in their heart.
You’ll meet Nelly and Alejandro Osorio of Arepa Lady, who tell the story of their mother’s measuring cup that was passed on to them, and which they refer to as a “treasure” that measures corn flour to make their renowned arepas.
You’ll watch Nourish Spot’s Dawn Kelly recite a prayer that remains on her office’s blackboard, which she reads to invigorate faith, inspire her entrepreneurial spirit, and to remain a steadfast supporter of her community through food, drink, and passion, especially during trying times like the pandemic.
Chef Lina Pacio shares the journey of the spatula that was gifted to her by a restaurant’s head chef after she worked her way up the line to become sous chef, a kitchen tool that’s traveled with her through multiple kitchens and is now housed at her station at Armando’s.
The stories of these chefs, and 47 others, weaves a beautiful story of food and life in the borough of Queens.
These objects in the Queens Chef Project have helped us persevere during the pandemic, by allowing chefs to cook food for our culinary comfort when it was needed most, or as food for sustenance to our neighbors in need. These chefs, and their kitchen objects are tools that will help our city recover through the lens of food and that will rebuild the Culinary Capital of the World – New York City.
Thank you, Drew, for creating this space for chefs to share these wonderful stories.