Out of the ordinary: A kitchen’s contribution in times of uncertainty

The Ordinarie is part of Michael “Tank” Gonzales’ effort to feed the elderly in Long Beach through World Central Kitchen.

Nuns+from+Little+Sisters+of+the+Poor+in+San+Pedro+receive+fresh+food+from+The+Ordinarie+and+Lola%27s+in+Long+Beach.+This+effort+is+part+of+a+partnership+with++not-for-profit+non-governmental+organization+World+Central+Kitchen.

Image from The Ordinarie's Instagram

Nuns from Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro receive fresh food from The Ordinarie and Lola’s in Long Beach. This effort is part of a partnership with not-for-profit non-governmental organization World Central Kitchen.

Whether by fate or coincidence on April 10, Chris Caldwell, founder and owner of Long Beach tavern The Ordinarie, read an article that fit with the mission he had recently embarked on.

Little Sisters of the Poor, the San Pedro home for the elderly and impoverished, was in need of food and other donations.

In the times of COVID-19, The Raven and The Wolves tattoo studio owner Michael “Tank” Gonzales had reached out to Caldwell in early April to discuss signing on to provide food for the elderly in local living facilities. The article seemed to come at the right time.

“On April 10, as we were finalizing the plan, I saw a news piece about the Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro needing food for their seniors,” Caldwell said. “I called Tank, I forwarded the article and he called the sisters. We started delivering [food] there on [April] 13.”

The food delivery to the religious charity is part of an initiative led and organized by Gonzales to bring World Central Kitchen to Long Beach.

World Central Kitchen is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization, which provides meals around the world following natural disasters and was founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres in 2010.

“We’re so happy and excited,” Angel Borro, dietary manager at Little Sisters of the Poor said in a video uploaded to the Ordinarie’s instagram page. “I told my residents about it, a few, and they were very excited, very happy and very thankful […].”

The program, which Gonzales had volunteered with in the past, is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization, which provides meals following natural disasters founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres.

“[He] reached out to [WCK],” Caldwell said. “They asked him to lead efforts on a new program in Long Beach and he reached out to me at The Ordinarie to discuss how we could make this happen.”

On his end, Caldwell and his team were responsible for planning meals and figuring out how to package them. Gonzales reached out and secured the senior living facilities and had UPS donate a truck to help with the food deliveries.

They partnered with Lola’s, a Mexican cuisine restaurant, and together they are making over a thousand meals a day for seniors staying at home in local senior facilities.

“Just like so many others that work in this industry, providing is very natural to me,” Chelsea McNeill, chef at The Ordinarie said. “Usually that means bringing people together around a table for a meal, but in these times that is not a possibility. Instead, knowing that my team and I can provide healthy, delicious food for our community not only brings me a sense of joy but also pride in the industry and community I love so deeply.”

Just weeks before, McNeill wouldn’t have been able to say the same. She had to ask her team not to come back to work.

“It was extremely heartbreaking, I just wanted to find a way for them to come back […],” McNeill said on the tavern’s instagram page.

WCK allowed The Ordinarie the opportunity to hire back its kitchen staff to help make meals and for McNeill, their willingness to contribute has been touching.

“Today coming in, we have my guys back with me,” McNeill said. “The kitchen isn’t so empty, it isn’t so lonely anymore.”

According to McNeill, as of this week approximately 5400 meals have been delivered to local senior facilities.

“The first call I made was to one of my guys to tell them about the program and see if they wanted to come back and help out,” McNeill said. “Their response was ‘I’ve been waiting for the call Chef!’ Man, I never felt so much relief and gratitude. Their willingness to help is admirable.”