Ayesha and Stephen Curry and Eat Learn Play, their foundation in Oakland, have teamed up with José Andrés and World Central Kitchen, the disaster relief organization. Shortly after the pandemic started, they kicked off a project called Restaurants for the People, an effort that supports local restaurants and serves local residents. Now they’re committing to a massive goal: The Curry-Andrés team plans to partner with more than 200 local restaurants and serve more than 2 million meals by the end of July.
“Food is my love language,” Ayesha Curry tells Eater SF. “It’s nurturing. We need food to survive, but it’s also a form of communication, joy, and health. So for me it was important, just seeing the numbers, and understanding how many kids were going to lose their [school lunch] programs and meals, pretty much their only source of food during the pandemic. That was really scary to me. Sometimes people need help. They need a village. We vowed at Eat Learn Play to be that village for the Oakland community. So we had to step up.”
The Eat Learn Play foundation launched just last summer, with the intention of providing meals for underserved kids in Oakland. Then in March, after driving by the Princess Cruise Ship docked at the Port of Oakland every day, the Currys connected with José Andrés and World Central Kitchen.
Since then, they’ve partnered with more than 100 restaurants in Oakland, providing more than 300,000 meals per week to all kinds of residents in need, including kids, seniors, and frontline workers, through organizations like the Alameda Food Bank and the Oakland Unified School District. Now, as coronavirus cases continue to rise, they’re upping that goal to partner with more than 200 local restaurants, and serve nearly 2 million meals by the end of July.
The partnership “basically saved my business,” says Oumar Diuf, the chef-owner of Afro-Brazilian spot the Damel, which opened in May of 2019. Diuf says the pressures of the coronavirus crisis had him ready to give up his storefront and go back into commissary kitchens. When he got the email asking him to participate in, Restaurants for the People “It was amazing. It has always been my goal to serve the community. I called my employees. I spoke with my landlord. I got my brother to move out.”
The Damel now contributes 450 meals a day on average , including their popular Argentinian empanadas and Senegalese dibi or grilled meats. Diuf puts his label on all of the boxes, so people can learn about his new business, and drops off some meals himself.
“Bringing someone a hot meal is a satisfaction with no prize,” Diuf says. “Coming from West Africa, I know how hard it is to get food on table. That’s why I started helping my mom in the kitchen, and that’s why I’m a chef today.”
Of course, Ayesha Curry is a restaurateur herself. For any fans of International Smoke, the quick update is that it’s still possible to order the ribs through the Mina group’s big combined menu for takeout and delivery. And for fans for Ayesha herself, she also has an upcoming cookbook, promising an inside look at how she cooks at home with her basketball star husband and crew of cute kids.
Still, even though the number of people served is impressive, Ayesha is careful to put it in perspective. “While the numbers (of meals served) are great, it’s devastating to me, because as the numbers are growing, that means the need is growing as well,” the cook, author, and TV star says. “Now is the time for communities to be joining forces and coming together.”