New Chicago Restaurant Debuts Pay-It-Forward Model And Provides Work For Cooks

In more Chicago news, Community Canteen opens today in the Bridgeport neighborhood, the Chicago Tribune reports. What's really of note, however, is its operating model: It's a pay-it-forward restaurant. Which means you can pick what you'd like to eat, and anything you give funds a future meal for someone else. Anyone in need is free to take a meal for free, no questions asked.

During the early days of the pandemic, Ed Marszewski, co-founder of restaurant Kimski and the bar Maria's, and owner of Marz Brewing, started Community Kitchen Project, which banged out 300 meals per week for people in need of assistance. It not only fed the community but provided jobs when times were thin for many people in the service industry. Community Canteen is expecting to expand the project to deliver 2,000 meals a week, and with financial help from individuals, investors, and foundations, it'll be able to grow.

"We just want to show that this community kitchen thing, it can work. We're trying to keep that ecology going and keep this moving," Marszewski told the Tribune. "We're going to do it through the winter, try to keep people employed and try to feed people. The need for food in Chicago isn't going to end."

Chef Won Kim, a member of the team of Chicago chefs and restaurant owners who are running the project, mentioned that some people are self-conscious about wanting or needing to take food, but all are welcome, from those who are just hungry for a bite of lunch or those who have very little to support themselves. As a cook myself, I can vouch for the fact that in the end, all kitchen staff really want to do is to cook for people, make sure they're full (and not just fed), and in the meantime, are also happy, and I hope the no-questions-asked mentality will be the norm in the future.