It was less than a month ago that Maketto restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang launched his restaurant relief effort called the Power of 10 Initiative. Today, with the help of Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu, he’s bringing it to Los Angeles. The ambitious initiative aims to raise $10,000 in donations per week to support ten full-time jobs at small, independent restaurants, which then provide 1,000 meals to hospital workers, first responders, and others in need.
So far the DC program has employed 50 hospitality workers at Maketto, ABC Pony, Trinidadian spot Cane, globe-trotting Compass Rose, and the Columbia Room’s new sandwich pop-up, Get a Hero Be a Hero. The restaurants are currently sending 5,000 meals a week to Washington Hospital Center, the DC Fire Department, and communities in need. Bruner-Yang says his organization works in tandem with Jose Andres’s World Central Kitchen as well as other industry efforts like the Lee Initiative and Hook Hall Helps to provide jobs for unemployed workers and meals for those in need.
In California, the program is launching at Sushi Kiyosuzu, a small, traditional Japanese restaurant owned by Nagasu’s parents. An anonymous donor, who splits time between DC and LA, provided the funding to help get the West Coast branch off the ground and helped reopen the Japanese restaurant so it can provide the meals to essential workers. Bruner-Yang says he and Nagasu connected on Instagram through mutual friends, and shared similar experiences as the children of immigrants.
“We [in DC and LA] have large Asian-American communities and small business owners who don’t speak English, who don’t have websites, and who don’t know how to navigate the new climate,” says Bruner-Yang. “In a way, it’s our generation giving back to the generation that supported us and helped us have a better life here.”