The night that the earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan, I was eating dinner at Scarpetta. It was hard not to feel guilty when I arrived home, looked at my Twitter feed and saw that the country was being ravaged by an indestructible force of water.
While I had been eating $24 spaghetti.
Watching the devastation on CNN that night, I felt a mélange of feelings – horror, sadness, disbelief, and helplessness. It was strange seeing the disaster unfold on TV, a medium that I turn to for my dose of teen dramas and reality competition shows like “Top Chef.” In some ways I felt like I was watching a movie – like it wasn’t really real – particularly because when I turned it off to go to bed, it was no longer there in front of me. If I chose to, I could go on with my every day life and pretend that it hadn’t even happened.
But when I woke up the next morning, it was still pulsating through my mind. I rushed again to the TV to see what was going on, and when I finally peeled myself away to leave for the office, I couldn’t help but feel strange that I was going to work like it was any ordinary day when for so many people it wasn’t.
In the time since the tsunami, my initial sense of helpless has grown exponentially with each new problem that has cropped up as a result of the disaster. It doesn’t seem there is much that I – or anyone else in America – can do from all the way across the ocean aside from pray and/or donate funds to the relief effort.
Yet for chefs – both professional and amateur – the first impulse in this type of situation is often a desire to get in the kitchen – to use that talent as a means of a grander contribution.
Restaurants across Los Angeles have already gotten in the game. For the past week, Cube Cafe on La Brea has been hosting a “Red for Red” fundraiser donating 100% of proceeds from sales of three red wines by the glass to the American Red Cross’ disaster relief programs in Japan. The promotion ends tomorrow. Xino at Santa Monica Place offered special lunch and dinner specials last week with 10% of profits benefitting Give2Asia. And during this past weekend’s re-opening, Sushi Nozawa on Ventura donated every dollar spent between 5 – 10 pm to the Japan Relief Fund.
This coming Saturday, April 2nd, the amateur kitchen mavens will be firing up their ovens in support of the cause. Food bloggers across America will be joining forces with professional chefs and their restaurant and bakery brethren to host bake sales for the relief effort. The nationwide fundraiser, called “Bake Sale for Japan,” was conceived by Samin Nosrat, Pop-Up General Store cofounder and Tartine Afterhours chef, in San Francisco. Previously, Samin raised $23,000 for quake relief in Haiti through three bake sales that took place in the Bay Area last year.
For this upcoming fundraiser, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Salt Lake City, Austin, Chicago, and Hawaii, as well as other cities across the country, are getting involved. Breanne Varela, the pastry chef at Tavern restaurant in Brentwood, is organizing the bake sales that will be taking place in Los Angeles, and has been reaching out to local food bloggers, and professional and amateur bakers and chefs for baked treats and other sweet contributions.
The bake sales will take place from 10 am - 2 pm next Saturday at the following Los Angeles locations:
Forage - 3823 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Black Cat Bakery - 519 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036
Angeli Caffe - 7274 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
BLD - 7450 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Akasha - 9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
Chefs Center of California - 45 N. San Gabriel Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107
Brentwood Country Mart – 225 26th St., Santa Monica, CA 90402
A complete list of the national locations can be found on the “Bake Sale for Japan” website. All proceeds from these sales will be donated to Peace Winds Japan, a non-governmental organization that is currently contributing 100% of its donations to the relief efforts in Japan.
I’ve already committed to baking my carrot cake oatmeal cookies for the BLD location in West Hollywood and hope that my fellow bloggers will consider donating to the cause as well. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Breanne at LosAngelesBakesale@gmail.com for more details.
If you don't feel up to baking, you can still help out by donating a non-food item, such as artwork or a gift certificate, or by volunteering to work a sale and help organize, collect and distribute the baked goods. Just email Breanne at, again, LosAngelesBakesale@gmail.com to discuss how you can contribute.
While the road ahead is still unclear for the people of Japan, this is one clear way that we, as a community, can show our collective support and concern for their behalf. And perhaps that’s the most important thing that we can do at this juncture. Let them know that even though we are across the ocean, their plight is real to us. We care.