On a recent trip to New Orleans, chef-owner Chris Williams told me that his pantry in Louisiana is “under siege” from people who “think we’re all criminals and have no compassion.”
He said that, as a result, he and his team have been forced to make changes, like changing the name of the pantry to “The Kitchen.”
And he said that as soon as he saw the backlash, he “just kept going to the kitchen and cooking,” as if it were some sort of “natural” process.
“It’s been like that ever since,” he said.
“We have so much compassion for everyone, and the fact that it’s so hard for people to be compassionate with us and to understand that we need to be better, is so important.”
While Williams and his co-owners say they’re committed to helping the community, they say that the response has been especially challenging.
Williams and company, which also has a local kitchen and a Louisiana restaurant, said they have “had to hire new staff, relocate a lot of our inventory, and reevaluate our menu.”
The two chefs said that they’ve found that it is difficult to find cooks with a lot in common, and have found themselves in situations where their cooking styles overlap.
For example, Williams said that he has to change his cooking methods so that his cooking time doesn’t overlap with the same dish he’s making.
And when they try to open up the pantries to new food-pantry customers, the response from the people they’ve worked with is not always positive.
“People who come in to see us are very critical, very angry, and not appreciative of our food,” Williams said.
The reaction is understandable, he added, but it’s also frustrating.
“They’re not really understanding the level of dedication we put into our food.
They just think, ‘Oh, you’re an asshole.'”
For instance, Williams’ new cook is also the cook for the other two chefs in the kitchen.
“When we came into this kitchen, we were not doing a lot,” he explained.
“Now we are.”
When asked how he and the other chefs can help the community heal from the backlash against the pantories, Williams responded with a smile.
“I don’t know, man, I’m not sure.
It’s hard for me to say.
I’m just happy that it has come to this point, but I’m trying to figure it out.”
He said that his kitchen and the two chefs’ pantries have become “kind of a symbol of hope” for the community.
But, Williams added, that hope is fragile, and that the reaction to his kitchen has shown that there is more to the pantrios than just their name.