How is the Restaurant Community Helping the Homeless?
By Jessica Bowne Photography by Bryce Vickmark| November 19, 2014 |
Over lunch at Brasserie Jo, Hearth Shares supporters Kevin McCall and Tiffani Faison talk about how the Boston restaurant community is helping the homeless.
Hearth Shares supporters Tiffani Faison and Kevin McCall at Brasserie Jo, which participates in the program.
Sometimes all it takes is asking nicely. Hearth Shares, a program that launches this winter in Boston, works with local restaurants in November and December to give diners the option of adding $1 or more to their check to help alleviate homelessness by providing community services and stable housing to those in need. Modeled after StreetSmart, a similar initiative in London, which has raised more than $10 million since 1998, Hearth Shares will donate 100 percent of its proceeds to help combat homelessness. The 25 participating restaurants include The Beehive, Blue Dragon, Blue Ginger, and chef-owner Tiffani Faison’s barbecue spot Sweet Cheeks. With the holiday season in full swing, Faison, a Top Chef alumna, and Kevin McCall, founder and chair of the Hearth Shares Committee, meet at another participating restaurant, Brasserie Jo, to discuss fighting the tide of homelessness in Boston and, of course, the art of eating, drinking, making merry, and leaving a little extra money this season.
Kevin McCall: The video piece you did [for Hearth Shares] was spectacular. Tiffani Faison: Thank you! It’s an incredible organization. KM: Thanks for being part of it. TF: It’s been my pleasure. Have you been to Brasserie Jo before? KM: I’ve been here for lunch and dinner a number of times, and I love this place. This table is fantastic; I love that it overlooks the street.
The waiter arrives.
KM: I’ll start with the onion soup gratinée with baked croutons and Gruyère, and then have the salad niçoise with medium-rare tuna, and the baked macaroni gratin with Gruyère and spinach. TF: I’ll have the roasted beets with goat cheese and hazelnuts to start and then also the salad niçoise—and the mussels look delicious as well. KM: You’ve probably heard the genesis of Hearth Shares; two years ago, my family and I went to visit our son in London. One night we went out to dinner and there was a card on the table talking about StreetSmart. It was very simply worded, to say that one pound, $1.60, will be added to your dinner tab. It explained that all of the proceeds go to organizations working in the homelessness space. I said to myself, I wonder if this is happening in Boston? And if not, then we should do it. TF: What is Hearth Shares’ fundraising goal? KM: This year the goal is $70,000 to $80,000. If we have around 20 restaurants, the math works that we should be able to do around $4,000 per restaurant.
The waiter arrives with onion soup gratinée and beet salad.
Roasted beets with goat cheese and hazelnuts.
TF: I think that’s attainable for sure. It’s a natural fit that we would participate with charitable organizations. What’s so interesting is that this puts it directly in the hands of our guests. It allows them to feel that they’re a part of what we do for the community. KM: I am a total sucker for onion soup, and this one is delicious. We wanted to try and make Hearth Shares as easy for restaurants as possible. You all do so much for the community—every time you turn around you all are participating in something. There are a lot of homeless issues that I think are pretty close to your world. TF: It is an honor to be so entwined in our communities and do the things that we do.
The waiter serves the tuna salads, mussels, and macaroni gratin.
McCall and Faison both enjoy salad niçoise.
TF: I love the presentation of these mussels in the piping-hot cast-iron pot. [To the waiter] Allow me to pick it up—my hands have been burned so many times they’re basically made of concrete. Oh, and no meal is complete without pommes frites. KM: That is impressive! I’m in the real estate business. My connection to the food business is that I love to eat. How did you connect to Hearth Shares? TF: Ming Tsai and Jeffrey Gates reached out—they’re both friends and I respect them tremendously. It was such a tangible, easy thing to do. The idea of being able to have our guests as our partners felt really great. KM: Homelessness in the city of Boston is something that we can make a huge dent in. The numbers are staggering, but we can definitely do it. What has been a great innovation in the homeless world is this shift from sheltering to housing. TF: Like any major issue, I think it takes knowing someone who is faced with the problem to have it really strike home. KM: I am so amazed by your industry, because you guys care about this stuff. TF: Thank you for a terrific lunch. French food can often be very precious with small portions, but all of this brasserie-style food is so plentiful. Without the kindness of my community, I would not have the life that I have, so it’s a natural want to become woven into the community in a way that’s beneficial to everyone.