Queue the Tina Turner and turn it up loud, because food people, “You're simply the best, better than all the rest. Better than anyone, anyone I ever met.”  

There’s no point in sugar-coating things. These are dire times for many of the hardest working, salt of the earth people near and dear to our hearts. The people who prepare and serve food to us are out on a limb while our government continues to stall a second Covid-19 relief bill (let’s face it, they’ve had months so it’s fair to sound critical), and increased unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of the December amidst new dining restrictions.

James Tran tagged us on an Instagram post about Natalie Vocos Sawyer, and her 2020 story is one we’d like to share on all of our platforms. Accompanying three photos taken by Tran since 2017, in her own words Vocos Sawyer of Ironside Fish and Oyster shares: 

"San Diego, 3/20/20 was the day reality rained down on our industry in rare form. There was no sugar coating, just a single text that read 'It happened'. Within minutes there was a note beneath our brass plaque that I will never forget, 'CLOSED EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY DUE TO COUNTY ORDER'. In a whirlwind of speed racks and cellophane we wrapped up the entire restaurant like it was tomorrow’s mise en place. The emotion you feel during something like this is hard to explain, one that my father would say builds character. 

24 hours later I was unemployed, and on a plane to Chicago O'hare airport with a $32 one-way ticket and a bottle of purell. I spent the next two months either sleeping on my sister’s couch or an air mattress with holes in it that I had to re-inflate every few hours. Unemployment was bombarded, I was one of the many that fell through the cracks, uncertain of when my payments would be approved. I was thankful to be with family, with the people I loved and missed, but I was mourning my life, my livelihood, my passion. We spend our whole careers learning how to handle working long hours, on holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries and suddenly it all comes to a screeching halt. The feeling of unease was similar to after 9-11 when I didn’t hear any planes overhead because air traffic had stopped. Something that has become so normal, so subconscious, that it is only truly noticed in its absence.

When word that a reopen was on the horizon, I rushed to yet again buy a one-way ticket. The next few weeks were the most challenging, rewarding and bizarre weeks I have ever spent in a restaurant. Thankfully our industry is built under extemporary conditions, by amazingly strong individuals which is proved through the very talented people I work beside. We are all just taking it day by day. We are adapting and learning in ways we never thought possible, and breaking the standards we need to in order to survive. Although we find ourselves yet again temporarily closing down, I have no doubts that the industry will overcome this, we are a culture built on survivors."

A reinforcement in the comments from Tran reminds us “to support your local establishments and or funds such as the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.”

Big Table is a nonprofit with a team based in Pacific Beach that offers support to restaurant and hospitality workers.

There are too many stories to recant, people with families to support, many of them had been working in a string of kitchens and dining rooms to get by before covid. So many challenges and hardships have been endured this year, followed by inspiring gestures of generosity and perseverance. To carry on this initiative, we’re starting a list of local restaurants that have active relief opportunities for members of the food and beverage industry. If you know of more, please include them here and we will add them to this listing. 

Our local restaurants need us now more than ever, so we’re also creating a local takeout and delivery guide

How you can pay it forward? Consider contributing to one of these efforts and supporting these businesses, and please share this page and tell your friends so we can help support the people that feed us. 


Selling limited edition holiday I Pasticcini di Cesarina gift boxes with a goal of raising $15k or more to give to employees.

$99 for an assorted variety of two dozen Italian pastries

Cochi Dorado

Our very own MasterChef, Claudia Sandoval offered up 20 boxes of assorted treats from her Cochi Dorado panderia pop up before taking a winter break. While bakery is closed for the next few weeks, you can order Cochi gear or gift cards to help support this small business.


This FAM restaurant is hoping to raise much deserved hazard pay bonuses for cooks and nutritionists that have maintained a busy schedule preparing meals for San Diego’s senior and chronically ill communities. Chef and owner Lan Thai is dedicating profits from sales of Enclave t-shirts, herbal tea packages, and posters through the end of 2020 to the team, plus a $1 for $1 match from the chef herself.

Trust Restaurant Group

Give the ultimate gift of a three-course steak dinner from Rare Society. Donation purchases can be ordered on the website and meals go directly to industry workers.

$35 each with options to buy packs of 10, 25, or 50. Talk about leaving a big tip.

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