WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Working with food brings a sense of comfort for Eric Williams. But as the COVID-19 restrictions forced restaurants to close dine-in areas, Williams and his downtown L.A. co-workers were left without jobs.
“Pretty much all of us got laid off and the uncertainty of not knowing where our next check was going to come from? It just kind of left everyone uneasy,”Williams said.
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Williams worked as a grill cook in a DTLA restaurant before his employer decided to close. Williams is one of more than 400,000 people in the hospitality industry that lost their jobs in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Everybody that I know that works in a restaurant, those restaurants are closed. All of my cooking comrades, anyone that worked in front of the house, dishwashers, bussers…” Williams said.
Williams and about nine other hospitality workers found themselves back in the kitchen with a paycheck, when chef Royce Burke decided to open his restaurant, Secret Lasagna + Market less than two weeks ago to provide jobs for others in the industry.
Each order also comes with a free meal for undocumented kitchen workers through a local charitable effort.
“The goal here is to support the restaurant community as a whole it’s our family and it’s what we really care about and getting people to work during this time. Because a lot of people just can’t afford to now work for an extended period of time,“ Burke said.
The restaurant opening couldn’t have come at a better time for Williams.
“I’m happy to just be getting paid to work in a kitchen when there are kitchens closed," Williams said. "On my walk over here, I walk by restaurants that are not open so it’s a good reminder of how blessed I am and how blessed I am to be here.”
During this time of uncertainty, Williams continues to be grateful to do what he loves by bringing comfort food to those who might need it most.