Celebrity chef Guy Fieri raises $21.5M for struggling workers

The 'Mayor of Flavortown' is on a personal mission to help the food services sector

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri raises $21.5M for struggling workers

The restaurant industry may have been among the first to be heavily affected by COVID-19 lockdown measures, but key players in the sector are stepping up and pooling together resources to bail out workers who are struggling through the crisis.

Among them is celebrity chef Guy Fieri. In March, the Food Network host and restaurateur launched the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to aid workers in the food services sector who are facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Within seven weeks, the Emmy Award-winning “Mayor of Flavortown” raised more than US$21.5m through his personal efforts, enlisting the help of companies such as Moët Hennessy USA, PepsiCo, and Uber Eats. The assistance fund has helped an estimated 43,000 employees with its $500 benefit.

Read more: Restaurants reveal 'recipe for growth' after lockdown

Fieri has spoken highly of blue-collar restaurant workers on his show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in the past. But over the weekend, he himself received praise across social media for his relief efforts.

Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price lauded the celebrity chef. (Price is known widely for taking a million-dollar executive pay cut to raise the minimum wage at his financial technology company.)

“Guy Fieri has done more for unemployed restaurant workers than Congress has in the last eight months,” the CEO said in a tweet.

Stephanie Ruhle, a senior business correspondent for NBC News, thanked Fieri for helping the ailing food services industry.

“The Mayor of Flavortown steps up to help restaurant workers as actual lawmakers do not,” she tweeted. “This time last year, there were almost [four million] MORE Americans working in [the] hospitality [industry] than there are today.”

Author and cultural critic Michael Brendan Dougherty pointed out the chef’s “soft-belly populism”.

Read more: 100,000 frontliners to get 'pandemic bonus'

The CARES Act allocated $377bn in emergency relief to small businesses – including those in the restaurant industry – but recovery has been slow for some employers.

While Fieri has caught national attention for raising millions in donations, he’s far from being the only champion of this cause.

David Chang, founder of the hugely popular Momofuku restaurant brand, recently donated his million-dollar prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to the Southern Smoke Foundation, another relief organisation dedicated to helping workers in the food & beverage industry.



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