During a time when so many are turning out to support those on the front line of Delaware’s coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants and food industry professionals – a group hit earliest and perhaps hardest by the shutdown – were some of the first to lend a hand.
There are countless stories of these generous efforts to share – today we will focus on two.
This week, Capano Management’s restaurant affiliates Columbus Inn and Charcoal Pit and their Taste Catering business will deliver 655 meals to hospitals and first responders, while former chef Tony Rizzo delivers tray after tray of homemade cinnamon buns to people at many of the same locations.
Capano is overseeing a massive Hometown Heroes food program, preparing a mix of lunches and dinners, out of kitchens that are also cranking out lots of take-out orders.
Today a staff of five oversaw the creation of 60 lunches filled with hot roast beef sandwiches, a mixed green salad, Kettle chips and a side of horseradish sauce. Given that there was barely a word exchanged, you could tell they’ve been through this drill before.
Two of the Columbus Inn employees, Ashley and Admin, hopped in their truck to deliver 60 lunches to ChristianaCare in Wilmington.
The Capano crews will deliver to the Wilmington Police tonight, then tomorrow be back dropping off meals to Wilmington Hospital, the Hockessin and Newport Fire Departments and Nemours/A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children. They’ll deliver every day this week, and on Saturday they’ll deliver to all six Wilmington Fire Department locations.
“It’s important for us to show appreciation to those on the frontline of this pandemic,” says Louis Capano III, Capano Management CEO.
“Since we have the infrastructure, equipment and personnel to set up our Hometown Heroes food delivery initiative, we are glad to help out in any way we can,” he said.
Beyond larger food making operations stepping up, there are many individuals going above and beyond at this trying time.
Chef Tony Rizzo and the Cinnamon Bun Exchange
Chef Tony Rizzo was one of thousands in the food industry furloughed at the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic. Rizzo, a division chef for US Food, would normally spend his days helping restaurants develop menu ideas, fine-tune recipes or select products among different brands.
“As a group, we’re just folks with a real passion for culinary arts, and we go out into the field and help restaurants with anything they need. But the virus has wiped out the entire industry, so there’s no need for us in those roles,” he said. Rizzo studied at the Culinary Institute of America and previously owned two restaurants in Delaware County, PA and worked at other restaurants, including at UD.
Feeling fortunate to be furloughed but not happy with time on his hands, Rizzo decided to make cinnamon buns and other culinary creations, which he then shared on Facebook.
His tantalizing pictures caught the eye of one special friend, Lori Hilferty, who offered to buy a few dozen cinnamon buns, with the intention of giving some to healthcare workers. She then told her friends about Rizzo’s buns, and within days lots of people signed up to purchase their own. Some of his new customers also donated extra money so Rizzo could bake batches for pandemic frontline workers.
The idea took off, and now Rizzo and Hilferty have generated a tasty business that’s also helping others.
“Lori’s a real go-getter, and she’s also a lot of fun,” said Rizzo.
Now Rizzo sets his alarm clock for 4:30 am each day to make sure he has enough time to make hundreds of cinnamon buns – for customers as well as firefighters, police and hospital personnel.
“These are all made from scratch – handmade with love,” says Hilferty.
Lori now has her hands full, managing the social media and scheduling of Rizzo’s cinnamon bun business now called Cinnamon Bun Exchange. She’s on the phone daily lining up locations that would like the free buns and coordinating the schedule with paying customers.
A dozen cinnamon buns costs $25, which includes delivery. A portion of that cost supports the free cinnamon buns Rizzo and Hilferty deliver to healthcare and EMS workers.
“I have a lot of contacts and know folks in the medical field. We’re trying to make sure our donated cinnamon buns go to the people who are working the hardest. They all are, but we often ask who folks are at the bottom of the hierarchy, and we try to deliver to them,” said Hilferty.
“It’s just simple cinnamon buns, but we know that brings a smile to some of these people, and that means the world to us,” she said.