L.A.-area bakers, chefs join a bake sale this weekend to help Ukraine
Humanitarian organizations are working to support Ukrainians seeking food and shelter during the Russian invasion — and in Los Angeles, dozens of members of the food community have joined their ranks. On March 5, roughly 40 bakers, chefs and food retailers will participate in a fundraiser benefiting two nongovernmental organizations currently helping Ukrainians on the ground.
“It just feels like we’re in an emergency situation, a humanitarian crisis. You can’t wait on this one,” said farmer and organizer Sherry Mandell, adding, “I think as a society we all have this collective feeling that it’s kind of an anxiety that we want to do something, but what can we do?”
You can order baked goods and other items from participating restaurants through Gather for Good, a grass-roots fundraising group.
Mandell, who helps run the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project, teamed up with Steph Chen, the baker-owner of Sugarbear Bakes, to launch Gather for Good in early 2017. Since its inception the organization’s events — participants are typically L.A.-area bakers and chefs — have raised more than $120,000 for various nonprofits and aid groups, including the ACLU and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Gather for Good will donate proceeds from Saturday’s baked-good sales and raffles to World Central Kitchen, which is feeding Ukrainians along the border in various locations and within the country and to Libereco Partnership for Human Rights (PHR), a Swiss-German organization supplying medicine and other on-the-ground aid to Ukrainians on the frontlines, as well as resources for people trying to leave the country.
“There’s definitely a collective feeling of heaviness and dread,” said Chen. “I feel like I open up the news or see different outlets that I follow on social media and it’s getting worse and worse and worse, and it’s pretty difficult to feel like you need to just sit on the side.”
Participating bakers and chefs inform Gather for Good of the items they intend to sell and designate a recipient or recipients. As Chen and Mandell receive descriptions and ordering procedures, which vary by participant, they’re added to their website. More than two dozen of the fundraiser’s participants are located in the L.A. area, while others can be found in Orange County and Ojai, and as far away as the Bay Area.
Donors range from homespun operations to some of the country’s most lauded restaurants, including A.O.C., Rustic Canyon, Gjusta, pop-up Panhead LA, new pizzeria Quarter Sheets and Botanica.
For pastry chef Laura Hoang — who sells desserts at Chinatown restaurant Pearl River Deli and through pop-up and wholesale bakery Snacks by Largwa — participating in Gather for Good’s fundraiser isn’t simply a method of raising funds. It’s a way to show support for her co-worker. Masha Kaznachey, who serves as an accountant for Pearl River Deli, recently flew to Ukraine to reunite with her family and help those on the ground.
“[Kaznachey] is one of the top supporters of PRD, and our hearts go out to her family and to her,” Hoang said. “I don’t know if anyone at PRD can understand what she’s going through, but what we can do is put more effort in the kitchen toward this relief effort.”
Hoang will be raffling eight loaves of milk bread from the restaurant, each feeding roughly four people, to be picked up at the winners’ convenience. It marks both the first time she is selling the bread retail and her first participation in a Gather for Good fundraiser.
While most of the items on offer are baked goods, some of L.A.’s most notable restaurants are donating proceeds from dishes on their dinner menus. At Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon, all Saturday sales of the trout-roe-smothered pork chop will be donated to World Central Kitchen and Libereco PHR. In addition to selling sticky buns and Basque cheesecake for the fundraiser, A.O.C. is offering a chicken dinner that serves four.
Chen and Mandell are raffling hand pies and selling tortillas, respectively, for the fundraiser. For the co-founders, their events don’t just serve as a means to donate, but as an impetus for discussion.
“When you’re buying or doing a raffle, it’s not just about the pies, it’s not just about the food,” said Mandell. “It’s really about the conversation: It’s sparking interest and conversation between the public, the community. If we see something that feels like it needs to be talked about, we’ll do something.”
Gather for Good’s team of volunteers aren’t the only ones fundraising this week. West Hollywood cocktail bar Employees Only recently invested in a case of Ukrainian-made Khor vodka and concocted a drink also benefiting World Central Kitchen. The Pruzhnyy cocktail, which is available until the Khor runs out, also includes apricot, honey and lemon, and costs $20 with 100% of the proceeds donating to the organization. In Culver City “Top Chef’s” Shirley Chung is selling blue and yellow varenyky-inspired dumplings at her restaurant, Ms Chi Cafe; the “freedom dumplings” are filled with chicken, mushroom, dill, cabbage and sunchoke, with 100% of the proceeds donated to UNICEF and World Central Kitchen.
Find more information on Gather for Good’s Ukrainian-aid fundraiser at andgatherforgood.com/ukraine.
9:08 a.m. March 4, 2022: This story has been updated with mention of chef Shirley Chung’s fundraising dumplings.
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