The Mercury News Weekend

Buy a meal and the needy can be fed, too

- By Linda Zavoral lzavoral@ bayareanew­sgroup.com

The Chef’s Market drivethru, the newest San Jose restaurant initiative to help feed the needy, isn’t just a win-win.

It’s a “win-win-win-win” in the words of one downtown booster.

From now through Jan. 12, five downtown San Jose restaurant­s are teaming up to prepare takeout meals for customers, plus a bonus for the community. For every meal that is ordered, the cooks will make a second meal to be donated to the families served by San Jose SHIP Kits and Hunger at Home.

But the benefits from this project — the inaugural idea from chef Rodney Baca’s new nonprofit — are even greater, according to Eric Glader, the San Jose Downtown Associatio­n’s new community engagement director.

“You get a meal, the less fortunate get a meal, restaurant­s and cooks get some much-needed business and the city of San Jose can benefit from some activity in the heart of downtown. It’s a win-win-win-win situation,” said Glader, who is also cofounder of the SHIP Kits group, formed for the shelter-in-place era.

Baca, who runs The Shop by Chef Baca at the San Pedro Square Market and the Baca Systems nonprofit, came up with the idea as a way of helping both those who have lost jobs to this tough coronaviru­s economy and the downtown restaurant­s that are still in business but struggling to survive.

“Our restaurant community has gone through so much from coronaviru­s, stay-at-home orders, fires and poor air quality, but we have been resilient,” Baca said, noting that many downtown eateries open every day despite it being a money-losing propositio­n. “Why? Because people can enjoy our food, because we can keep people employed and because we love our community.”

Four other restaurate­urs are joining him in the effort: Juan Sosaya of Jora Peruvian, Robee Sada of Robee’s Falafel, Carlos Perez of Loteria Taco Bar and Josh Hyland with his new eatery, Hyland House of Sushi.

Here’s how the Chef’s Market works: Go to chefsmarke­t1.square.site and order off the online menu. Every $25 offering from the five restaurant­s is a full meal with entree, salad or soup, dessert and bott le d wat er. T hat same mea l w ill be prepa red twice, once for the customer and once for donation. (Or customers may donate both meals).

Then swing by the 300 S. Second St. parking lot (at San Carlos Street) for socially distanced curbside pickup. Hours of operation are 11 a . m. to 6 p.m. daily — including today — during the two-week run.

The menu features:

• Jora Peruvian: Lomo saltado ( beef tenderloin) or chaufa de pollo with side dishes, quinoa salad and alfajores cookie.

• Hyland House of Sushi: Tuna- crab poke bowls with miso soup and teriyaki bento boxes with edamame salad, plus castella cake.

• Robee’s Falafel: Chicken kebab or lambbeef gyro platters with salad, sides and homemade baklava.

• Loteria Taco Bar: Quesabirri­a tacos, enchiladas or carne asada burritos with sides, salad and Mexican vanilla apple tart.

• The Shop by Chef Baca: Smoked brisket, housecured pastrami or East Side burger with sides, salad and creme brulee.

Three of the restaurant­s — Robee’s, Loteria and Chef Baca — also are selling family meals for four.

Baca said he hopes the initiative inspires the pr e-corona virus customer base, from the one-lawyer office to the large tech companies, banks and other big employers, to support the downtown restaurant­s that hosted their lunches, happy hour gatherings and business dinners before the March shutdown.

“What if individual­s see the destructio­n our small businesses face and decide to make a choice to help them rather than read about closures in the paper?” he said.

 ?? RANDY VAZQUEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Volunteer Austin L., center, hands a food order to Jill Peterson, right, and her son, Alex, 10, left, at Chef’s Market drive-thru in downtown San Jose on Thursday.
RANDY VAZQUEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Volunteer Austin L., center, hands a food order to Jill Peterson, right, and her son, Alex, 10, left, at Chef’s Market drive-thru in downtown San Jose on Thursday.

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