Fish Fry Fridays hopes to help struggling hospitality industry workers

More than 40 restaurants across New Orleans are participating.

Fish Fry Fridays hopes to help struggling hospitality industry workers

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In its second year, Hospitality Cares is bringing restaurants together to serve a special meal during the Lenten season with hopes to raise money for those hospitality workers struggling to make ends meet.

The Hospitality Cares campaign is a partnership between the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. The goal is to raise money for emergency crisis grants that can help those in the hospitality industry pay bills and provide for their families.

More than 40 restaurants across New Orleans are participating. For a list, click here.

Kirby Nagle with the United Way of Southeast Louisiana said one dollar for every entree served at participating restaurants goes toward the campaign, and that one dollar goes a long way in helping those who have gone without a paycheck for months.

“Fill your bellies, do something good for your community and make a small impact,” said Nagle.

Jimi Setchim, the executive chef at Broussard’s, said it has been a tough year for everyone in the hospitality industry.

“It’s something we never thought of in New Orleans. Hospitality had always been there,” he said. “If you can cook, if you can bartend, if you can work in a restaurant, you always had a job. Until last March when everything started to get kind of scary.”

For Setchim, the impact the pandemic has had on the industry is personal.

“My wife was a bartender for a long time... she is not anymore,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of people change careers, some people it’s been a blessing, some people it’s been real tough.”

Serving up a seared redfish dish is one small way he feels he can help his own community.

Much like Ralph Brennan at Ralph’s on the Park.

“Last year or so, we’ve done everything we can to try and support those people in our industry and this is one more example of how we can support,” said Brennan, who said since last March when the restaurant had to close he’s been able to bring back about 45 percent of his employees, but many continue to struggle.

By serving up a filet of redfish with a creole mustard sauce of Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and fresh Gulf shrimp, he’s hoping it will feed more than just the customers.

“Many people need assistance in some sort, and what we can do because we’re in the food business, is provide meals and so that’s what we try to do internally in our company and then support other programs that raise money to help support hospitality workers,” he said.

Back at Broussard’s, Chef Setchim said it’s “touching” to see people give back in this way.

“It’s easy sometimes to just write a check. But to be able to focus it on dollars that’s helping people that you know, that you see day-to-day, or maybe you’ve worked with before... people that are in our community, in our real tight community, it’s an amazing opportunity and we’re very grateful,” he said. “I’m very grateful to be a part of that.”

The campaign brings many businesses together to help the hospitality industry. The New Orleans Fish House is providing discounts to restaurants that use the business as a vendor. In addition, Tabasco has pledged to match up to $5,000 in money raised.

In 2020, the campaign raised $12,000 and they hope to raise even more this year.

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