The San Jose chef is launching a meals program to assist eating places and hungry residents

When Chef Rodney Baca and his wife Madelyn saw the COVID-19 pandemic devastate their communities and small business owners, the philanthropic duo decided to help other restaurateurs, restaurant workers and caterers.

“The inspiration came from the fact that we couldn’t go under if I could help,” said Chef Rodney Baca, who with his wife owns Chef Baca’s The Shop in San Jose. “To see our brothers and sisters in the hospitality industry decimated, we had to do something for me.”

The Bacas founded Chef’s Market through their nonprofit Baca Systems to help restaurants struggling to stay open during the pandemic.

Chef’s Market brings together five local restaurants – including Baca’s own restaurant, The Shop by Chef Baca – in a parking lot in downtown San Jose through January 12th. The five restaurants have started a drive-through pickup near South First Street that is being manned by local restaurant staff.

For every meal ordered, a second meal will be prepared free of charge for the user and donated to San Jose Ship Kits or Hunger at Home, two charities that support unemployed, underemployed and unhodged families due to the pandemic.

“It’s a win-win-win-win,” said Baca.

Customers can order online from one of the participating restaurants, from sushi to pastrami sandwiches to Mexican food, and choose their pick-up time. Once the order is placed, the popup creates and packages the order, and the customer can pick it up at a socially distant line in the parking lot of the nonprofit Urban Community in downtown San Jose.

Orders range from $ 25 for single meals to $ 100 for family-style meals that can support a family of four.

A photo of a brisket, one of the meals that Chef’s Kitchen offers. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

“It’s a great innovative project with a very passionate group of individuals supporting local businesses and food insecure people,” said Ewell Sterner, CEO of Hunger at Home.

According to Baca, restaurants were serving around 50 meals a day earlier this week, with a high of more than 100 in the middle and end of the week.

After the Chef’s Market closes at 6 p.m. every evening, Baca adds up the number of orders for that day to the two charities involved. First thing in the morning, he delivers the same amount of meals to San Jose Ship Kits or Hunger at Home.

And every time, said Baca, he is impressed by how grateful the people in the charities are.

“Every morning when I’m dropped off at Hunger at Home (meals) is probably one of the most humbling and amazing feelings I can have,” said Baca.

If the pop-up proves successful, Baca said there could be an opportunity to invite more restaurants to participate in the future, including working with the city and county to further spread the event.

“So many of us (hotel professionals) are on the verge of bankruptcy – I can’t see that,” he added. “I know these guys will be there for me to get this going and the least I can do is help them and get them as much attention as possible.”

Chef’s Market is located in the San Jose Urban Community’s parking lot at 300 South First Street. It started on December 30th and will be open daily through January 12th from 11am to 6pm. Participating restaurants also include Hyland House of Sushi, Jora Peruvian, Loteria Taco Bar, and Robee’s Falafel.

For more information or to place an order, click here.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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