In 2011, tornadoes ravaged Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri. In response, Taste Buds Management, which was already involved in charity projects in its hometown of New Orleans, founded Three Chefs One Mission to take its community service to other states.
Taste Buds Management, formed by chefs Greg Reggio, Hans Limburgh and Gary Darling, co-owns a group of restaurants and provides consulting services to restaurants, hotels and food manufacturers. Last year it fed thousands of people in need and provided other support, too.
Co-founder and owner Greg Reggio speaks to FSR.
What made you want to start Three Chefs One Mission?
It was something that we've always done here locally. But it was in 2011 when we decided to go outside of the city on a large scale basis that we came up with Three Chefs One Mission. We needed something to put on the sides of the caravan of trucks that were heading out of town.
What did the Tuscaloosa project look like?
We got the word out that we would be collecting clothes, toys and tools at all of our locations around the city, and then we loaded up a tractor trailer with donations from people of New Orleans.
The guy who gave us the tractor trailer and driver gave us another tractor trailer, and that one he filled up with water and tools and all kinds of other stuff. So there was a real outpouring of support.
We put together a group of some of our friends in the business and drove up to Tuscaloosa. We ended up feeding just over a thousand people, plus sent off pans of food to the National Guard, the police department and a number of churches. The way we set up the venue was very much like a festival. We had different areas where we were cooking different food.
We also brought in a local performer who played some Louisiana music. It was to take their minds off of what had happened there a couple of weeks before—just to give folks a break, even if just for an hour, to help them deal with it.
Then the tornado struck in Joplin, Missouri, and we did a repeat of that.
What were the logistical challenges of getting all of the food to Missouri and setting it up?
We do a lot of things off-site, so we have a certain amount of equipment that's ready to go. But this was huge. It took a lot of trucks, a lot of drivers. We ended up getting our friends from Sysco Foods locally to set us up with a truck and a driver, and they paid for the gas and made donations of some of the food that was on that truck. It was nice having a refrigerated truck come up there with us to keep all the food nice and safe.
Then, when we got there, there were a bunch of challenges. Some things didn't get loaded onto the trucks, but we made adjustments and everybody was happy.
How did you get the word out to the community that you needed donations?
A couple of the local radio stations and news stations covered it. We also had some information available at the restaurants, so we got the word out pretty quickly to folks that way.
How do you handle the financial commitment of running all of these charity projects?
We are very fortunate. We have a successful business, we've got a great team of people, and I've got a great couple of partners who also realize the importance of serving the community—so it all just kind of works out. We rely heavily on others as well. I go to my suppliers and ask them for a little bit of help—not money, but just product. We've also had people who have written checks to offset our costs.
Are you a 501c3, so you’re tax exempt?
We work through the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, which is, in fact, a 501C3, rather than setting one up. We may do one in the future but for right now, we do a lot of things through the Hospitality Foundation.
How does your community service also benefit your business?
It sounds like you're going to run a P&L off of it, but really it comes back to you in so many different ways. I think people recognize what we do for the community, and I think they appreciate that. You may not get dollar for dollar payback on it today, but it all works out.