By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Don’t believe the old adage, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” It’s not true when you’re talking about Karen Tadross, Alison Robicelli, and Justin Brannan, three Bay Ridgeites who have teamed up to help Hurricane Sandy victims in their own unique way.
The three friends are bringing a whole new taste to the idea of hurricane relief.
They are the founders of Bay Ridge Cares, an organization which cooks hot meals that are transported to victims in hurricane ravaged areas of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
Bay Ridge Cares, which works out of the kitchen at Saint Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church on Ridge Boulevard in Bay Ridge, has prepared more than 5,000 meals to date, all with fresh ingredients.
Robicelli is a well known Brooklyn chef and comes up with many of the menus. Robicelli is the owner of Robicellis, a wholesale food business that sells delicious desserts to some of the best restaurants and bakeries in New York. Tadross, a theater producer, and Brannan, a musician and an aide to Councilman Vincent Gentile, also do their share of the cooking and meal planning.
“The menu really varies depending on what ingredients we have to use that day. Each day there is a different chef, all top notch people, chefs from the River Café, chefs from Food Network, etc. But so far we've made split pea soup, turkey chili over wild rice, chicken dumplings, Lebanese lentils, rice and caramelized onions, Shepherd's Pie and Sausage Strata,” Brannan said.
The group has earned the gratitude of hurricane victims who have enjoyed their delicious meals. And now, Bay Ridge Cares has earned recognition from the Citizens Committee for New York City, which has awarded the organization a $5,000 grant to continue the good work.
For more than 35 years, Citizens Committee for New York City has supported volunteer-led neighborhood groups carrying out community improvement projects across the five boroughs. Recognizing that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy small volunteer-led groups had become crucial to the recovery, Citizens Committee began awarding $5,000 grants to these groups.
In the immediate aftermath of Super-storm Sandy, Tadross, Brannan and Robicelli realized that the demand for hot food for the victims was more than all the existing kitchens could handle. Thanks to the generosity of Father Michael Ellias and St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church, the three friends found a kitchen and their idea to cook hot meals took off from there.
The focus on a soup kitchen came about during a short phone call between Robicelli and Brannan. The two have been friends since grammar school and grew up together in Bay Ridge.
“Allison and I quickly discussed the idea and I immediately called Karen, who was able to secure us the kitchen. The whole thing truly came together in a matter of minutes,” Brannan said.
Tadross is a member of St. Mary’s Church.
“In the hours and days after the storm, the outburst of support was overwhelming – as was the urgent need,” Brannan said. “Just as donations would come in to Councilman Vincent Gentile's office in Bay Ridge, they were immediately being loaded onto a truck or packed into someone’s trunk and sent off to where they were needed most.”
It was decided they would set up Bay Ridge Cares as an auxiliary interim kitchen to supplement what was already being done by so many organizations, large and small, citywide. In its first three days of operation, thanks to the tremendous support of community volunteers, the Bay Ridge Cares kitchen had produced 2,500 meals for storm victims.
Citizens Committee for New York City recognized this effort and awarded the group a grant.
"I am lucky to be working with so many wonderful people from my community, who have banded together to help our neighbors. Many hands make light work, but it only takes one heart to make a difference,” Tadross said.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact at BayRidgeCaresKitchen@gmail.com to sign up.