PORTLAND, Ore. – Richard Le likes food, not only because of the taste but also because of the way we unite. So he found a way to continue to follow that desire even in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, and to show appreciation to health workers at the same time.
“I truly believe that one of the basic ways we are connected as humans, is through food and through that experience,” Le said.
He is the owner Matta, a popular Portland food truck that serves delicious Vietnamese soul food inspired by the Le family tradition.
“My approach to food is a slightly different cooking technique compared to my aunt and mother,” he said. “But I’m still trying to hold onto the taste and profile that I really remember when growing up as a child.”
His passion is food and feed his community.
So it was not easy when the pandemic forced him to close the doors of his new restaurant and his food truck.
“That’s very difficult,” Le said.
That did not stop him to cook. He cooperates with other local food carts, Jojo, to provide free food to unemployed restaurant workers and children outside of school. But he did not stop there. Now, he gives free food to health workers at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis.
“To be honest I just feel like we’re offering food is a very small gesture compared to what they actually do,” Le said.
It didn’t take long for other Portland restaurants to join.
Craig Melillo is the owner Apizza Gracie in the neighborhood of St. Johns. He brought his talent in the kitchen to the table.
Apizza Gracie specializes in wood-fueled za on the east coast, while Matta focuses on the American touch to Vietnamese dishes. Two very different types of cuisine, but with the same mission: Their stomach contents that save lives.
“It’s like the best of both worlds, and we can feed people who are very, very important in this very strange time,” Melillo said. “Looks like our best use of time.”
They have sent around 350 food items to health workers at OHSU, Providence and Good Samaritan hospitals in Portland.
“The smile you see on the face of the nurse … is very stupid. It really feels like we are doing something meaningful,” Le said.
Even though working in an industry that is really painful right now, this restaurant owner wants to help our health care heroes.
“This is hospitality, you know. I think most people like to cook because that’s what we do, “Melillo said.
“Just like, the natural desire to care for people, to care for someone, is really a big part of why the industry wants to give back. Even though we are all really affected by it, “Le said.
Le and Melillo can provide this free food because of donations from the community. Many only send money directly to their Venmo account. If you are interested in donating, you can contact one of them Apizza Gracie or Matta on line.
Both Le and Melillo will quickly tell you that they are not alone in this matter. Food trucks and other restaurants throughout the state do what they can to provide them with food that is in need.
Businesses outside the food industry also work with restaurants to provide free food. The Realtors Hasson company has raised thousands of dollars to provide hundreds of meals.
To learn more about their efforts and how you can help visit: hasson.com
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