News & Politics

Heroes of the Crisis: A Top DC Chef Is Helping Food-Industry Workers

Maketto's Erik Bruner-Yang created the Power of 10 Initiative, which is "really about keeping our community intact."

Photograph by Jeff Elkins

This article is part of Washingtonian‘s feature “Heroes of the Crisis.” From medical professionals to social-justice activists to culinary stars, here are some of the people who have helped get us through these most challenging of times. Read about the 15 people making a difference during the pandemic here.

Erik Bruner-Yang
Founder, Power of 10 Initiative

Bruner-Yang, the chef who operates Maketto and other DC spots, wanted to find a way to help both restaurants and residents during a dire time for his industry. A look at how he did it:

The crisis: 

The restaurant world is facing an unprecedented existential threat, with 5.5 million jobs lost nationwide in April alone. At the same time, overworked frontline workers and economically strapped families need to eat. “A lot of people were just trying to figure out how they were going to save their businesses,” he says. “But what if the only thing left standing where I live was just my business? It was really about keeping our community intact.”

The plan: 

In late March, Bruner-Yang launched the Power of 10 Initiative, which awards $10,000 grants to local restaurants. That money—which comes from donations—allows each kitchen to hire ten employees, generating at least 1,000 meals a week. The food is distributed to hospital workers and families in need through partnerships with groups such as Share Our Strength.

The result: 

The idea worked so well that Bruner-Yang expanded it to Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Dallas, and New York City. Overall, more than 40 restaurants have participated, providing 185,000 meals and counting. “It’s easy to get bogged down by the emotional weight of the time,” he says. “For me, Power of 10 was a great [break] from feeling depressed. We started an organization. We worked really hard, and we were able to help a lot of people.”

This article appears in the October 2020 issue of Washingtonian.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.