November 5th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
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Chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain is now a CNN contributor. He will travel around the globe to places such as Myanmar, Israel and the Congo as host of a new CNN show premiering this April. Follow him on Twitter @bourdain.

When you’re a small, independently owned and operated restaurant in New York City, the perishable inventory you just had to throw out of your warm refrigerators as a result of Superstorm Sandy may have been valued at, say, $2000 (to pick a completely arbitrary and optimistic number). And that’s what, in a perfect world, you might presumably, hopefully, eventually get back from the insurance company. If you’re lucky.

But the real value of that food was at least three times that amount from the second it entered the door. That’s the number you were counting on generating once that food was prepared and served. More likely, that’s the amount you needed to generate to cover the expenses of operating your restaurant.

If you’re like most small restaurants on the Lower East Side or Brooklyn or elsewhere, you needed to sell all those fish, meat and vegetables at a certain price in order to pay for the fish, meat and vegetables you bought last week. That’s on top of rent and other fixed expenses that aren’t going to go away just because your doors were closed. In a business where margins are so slim, even in a “successful” restaurant, any interruption of business can be disastrous.

So, already, you’re in trouble. That’s even before you fully come to terms with the direct costs of cleaning out your place, replacing destroyed equipment and furnishings, getting up and running again. Just by being closed for a week, you've tumbled down that slippery slope.

If you’re a waiter, busboy, bartender, you live on tips. No work? No tips.

No one will be making up that money for you.

If you’re a line cook, a dishwasher, a porter? Chances are, you’re paid by the hour. Even if your employer wanted to pay you for sick days and vacations, chances are, he can’t. If you’re anything like I was during my 28 years in the business, you’re already living paycheck to paycheck. You’re already struggling to make rent. Any unplanned cash flow interruption is going to cause some serious problems.

Restaurant people are good people. They’ve chosen to do a very hard thing, with a very limited statistical probability of ever making any real money: serving food to people.

They are not just in the “pleasure business” of making people happy, but in the nurturing business. At the end of the day, the restaurant’s job is to feed people. And that’s something they have done throughout every crisis.

Whether you’re talking New Orleans or New York, it seems it’s always the chefs and the cooks and the restaurant people who are out there early and often, giving what they can. Whether it’s food, money or time, restaurants and chefs have always been generous to charities, causes and their communities.

So, let’s do what we can. Just cause a little DIY place has got its power back on, doesn’t mean the bleeding has stopped. While there is no doubt that there are still people with direct, immediate, emergency needs, it would be a great help if those who can afford to do it would eat in the most seriously afflicted areas as early and as often as they can, patronizing local businesses in areas that were clearly hit hardest.

Tip heavily. And maybe send a $20 back to the dishwasher.

That’s not charity. It’s just neighborly.

anthony bourdain

Outside NYC and want to help? CNN's Impact Your World has a great list of resources that could use your time and money. Thinking about coming to New York to eat? Follow the Twitter hashtag #dineoutNYC to see the latest charity efforts and open restaurants and don't forget to #EatDownTipUp.

More on recovery efforts and food safety post-Sandy



soundoff (484 Responses)
  1. Jorge

    Anthony, since you make so much money and seem to have a cast-iron stomach, how about YOU round up all your rich friends, constantly eat out everywhere in NYC you can find, and tip BIG. Perhaps not you, but us ordinary folk are a little fearful of living with lifetime gifts of H. Pylorii, GERD, arteriosclerosis and financial insolvency.

    December 10, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  2. the truth

    Hurricane Sandy and people starving

    Obama: kthxbai, I'm off to myanmar for some fun

    November 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  3. Jersey Migrant Worker

    Across the river in Jersey the problem is there are too many places charging too much for mediocre food and service.
    Hoboken is at the top of the list.
    I'll gladly cross the river and have a bite of the Big Apple since it's easy to find better value for my money.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  4. John

    Unsure how an article on helping people that were devastated by a natural disaster turns into an all out screaming match on Christianity and Obama. One thing wrong with us as Americans is not many people have any regard for other's beliefs. What ever happened to being respectful and just a little nice?

    November 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Jerv

      Agreed. I've often wondered what the heck has happened to civility in this country.

      November 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Alex Rozenberg

      Totally agree , our civil society has reached a decadent point

      November 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  5. sam

    And hey don't forget to drink all the booze you can and eat those 850 MG hot dogs,hey have 5 at a time and 4 bagels loaded with cream cheese and butter...Live it up so The helth industries make Billions.Just NO SMOKING ALLOWED,OH I'm sorry BOOZE,POT,And Drugs are Ok

    November 8, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  6. GK

    Who can afford to eat out now that Obama is king again?

    November 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Jill

      Meeeeeeee!

      November 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  7. Sonya

    Modest Needs Foundation just launched a new and innovative program that can help low-income workers in the food/service industry who have lost wages as a result of the storm, which made it impossible for them to return to work for a period of time. For hourly workers that one paycheck is a lifeline and they may not be eligible for any other form of gov't assistance such as FEMA or even Unemployment. We are offering help with the one biggest expense that they have on their plate – their RENT (up to $1,500) amongst other things.

    https://www.modestneeds.org/

    To Donate: https://www.modestneeds.org/donation/donate-now-online.asp
    More info About Program: https://www.modestneeds.org/donation/Hurricane-Sandy-Relief-Program.asp
    To Apply: https://www.modestneeds.org/for-applicants/grant-types-hurricane-relief.asp

    November 6, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Sonya

      Anthony has hit the nail on the head. This is a real problem and a real way to help real people. Modest Needs Foundation has already raised more than $150K. Please let know anyone who may qualify know about the program.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Jorge

      So, Sonya, you're saying that among all the places in the free world that there are to live, there are people who choose to live in one of the most expensive places in the world, work slinging hash to six-figure yuppies for less than the federal minimum before tips and pay $1,500 a month to live in an 800 square foot roach motel three at a time?? I don't want to seem mean, but if you decided to live such an insular life that you have nothing beyond this, you brought it on yourself. My blue-collar parents worked two jobs each and lived like paupers for 12 years so they could BREAK OUT OF NYC, buy a nice house and open a small business of their own in Puerto Rico, and they were no Rhodes scholars. At any one time they had enough money in the bank to tide them over in an emergency or "live like a New Yawwka", but they decided to live thrifty and go for the big prize. NYC is no place to be unless you're a fat cat, or just there to make money.

      December 10, 2012 at 10:41 am |
      • DC

        Jorge you're a Schmuck, if you don't like hashing food for those yuppies do something about go back to school, or stay with a restaurant that allows you to grow into a better job at least here you have the freedom to do both apparently your parents did and you didn't learn from it. All your whining about NY and picking on Bourdain the only guy i know that is honest about the food scene and how its guys like us from south of the Border that keep that industry going with very little recognition and yet the man has the cojones to be honest enough to say that he himself is a miscreant and whore of the system created by the industry where food is now more about entertainment than a meal with family or friends and enjoying a good time. Let me see Booby Flay or Battalli give the staff in the back from El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua their spot on the lime light as they pay them minimum wage, haven't seen any of those guys on Iron chef lately have you. Sorry Mr Chairman Juan was a little heavy handed with the "Cumin" Say what you must about Tony but the one thing he is is Honest shows his faults and his true self and not ashamed of it. Pick on Flay, Batally and the rest of the Iron Schmucks on TV and let Bourdain keep being who he is with all his faults and honesty, can you say the same.

        April 20, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  8. DCBuck

    While Bourdain is an insufferable, pompous, burned-out a-hole, on this, I actually agree with him.

    November 6, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Ray Smith

      DC Buck – -And here I was thought I was the only person who knew what a total loser Bourdain is – -

      November 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
      • Reader

        he's actually the one that tells it like it is and he's sexy in a cool sort of way – so ..... there, I said it......oh well, don't agree or agree..it's OK...called freedom and speech and secret love

        November 8, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • tralfaz113

      DCBuck: While Bourdain is an insufferable, pompous, burned-out a-hole, on this, I actually agree with him.
      November 6, 2012 at 10:04 am

      @DCBuck: ...and those are his good points! I have never and will never watch any of Bourdain's shows because he skeeves me out. So does the other tw*t, Zimmern. Ugh. Never did care for either of them. And they both have so (too) much airtime. Note to Travel Channel: these clowns are overdone – time to pull the turkeys out of the oven.

      November 7, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  9. T. Nielsen Hayden

    CNN, you need to cough up for a moderator. If you don't know any, I can recommend some. Your commenters shouldn't be having to deal with trolls, spammers, and random vandals.

    I don't know what kind of system you think you have in place, but if it can't recognize "ROMNEY 2012 OR WE ALL FAIL" as context-free political spam, or "Valerie" as an obvious and thoroughly worthless troll, it's crap. Software filters can block most spam, but real moderation needs live human beings who have experience doing it.

    You've got interesting and genuinely engaged readers donating their time and attention here. You should treat that like it's valuable by making your site a better place for them to comment.

    November 6, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Thanks so much for the feedback - we're trying. There are only two of us who work on Eatocracy and we try to look in on the comments as much as we can to keep the discussion relevant. It's a work in progress.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:53 am |
      • divamomnyc

        Hey There! i would be more than willing to help you guys out! You can check me out taneeshathediva.com

        November 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  10. mttrailboss

    First.., I like Anthony Bourdain, including his heavy beer drinking of any kind. As for this well written article and story, the first part did not make sense. Once your into the story and understand, how Anthony Bourdain writes, the story begins to make sense. Well.., some parts of the story. Anthony Bourdain tried his best to articulate, what superstorm 'Sandy' may have done to some business owners' and employees', including the customer base. Or the 'fact' that running a restaurant business is very hard and sometimes, impossible to do. Overhead and bad food, including a restaurant owner, that has no clue on how to run a business, can 'close' their doors in months, if not sooner. I feel sorry for fast food chain restaurant employees', because their hourly wage and no tokes or tips, can barely live or pay rent. What Anthony Bourdain taught me, within this article or story, is that even in fancy high cost restaurants, the same thing goes on with their employees', lack of money and a tip goes a long way, if provided.. As for giving to good causes, I learned that, from watching too many reality shows.. Overall.., a very good article or story from Anthony Bourdain. Would I read him again, the answer is "Yes.".. Mike in Montana

    November 6, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  11. sir

    i'd rather not save nyc.

    November 6, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Right on

      Agreed.

      November 6, 2012 at 6:27 am |
      • zodiac

        I am always curious where people live that make ignorant statements like this.

        November 6, 2012 at 8:17 am |
        • Jerv-politicizing a food blog this morning.

          They live in the Red Welfare States that consistently vote Republican.

          November 6, 2012 at 8:23 am |
        • AleeD®

          Ooh-rah!

          November 6, 2012 at 9:41 am |
      • Eatocracy Seating Host™@Sir, right on

        Table for two immediately available in the STFU cafe.

        November 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'm sorry to hear that. For those of us who make our homes here, it's not so optional.

      November 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Tanya

      Remind me where you live, so I can skip sending money or aid in event of a natural disaster. Thanks!

      November 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Buck

      New York is a great city....for me to poop on!

      November 8, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  12. Megan Boyle

    So glad to see people FINALLY talking about this issue. An organization I love, Modest Needs Foundation, is offering direct assistance to low-income workers who were forced into temporary unemployment due to the storm and now can't afford to pay their most important monthly expenses: their rent and mortgage payments. These grants are being made immediately and paid directly to landlords / mortgage lenders on a first-come, first served basis, and the program itself is supported by $150K in matching money. If you know people in the service industry or elsewhere who've lost income due to the storm, please encourage them to apply for this help. It's real, and it's available now. Details are here: https://www.modestneeds.org/for-applicants/grant-types-hurricane-relief.asp

    November 6, 2012 at 5:31 am |
  13. BailMeOut

    New York City was bailed out in 1975, yet the city didn't learn from its mistake... Get the mafia and the drug dealers and the rappers to bail the city out this time. They own it! Maybe if Governor Christie would slow down on his appetite, New Jersey wouldn't have a problem feeding their people. C'mon New York! Thought you were tough.

    November 6, 2012 at 3:16 am |
  14. OptimisticLA

    Hey AB! I have to say I've seen all of your episodes!!! And PERU and OSAKA! in my opinion were BY_FAR the BEST!!! Realism no fancy BS just a taste of culture and no holds bared, jump into culture and heritage!!! In Lebanon or Jordan, I can't remember, but you looked FKn stressed, so the episode actually SckD big time! No offense!!!! And Whoever took the photos for this article Scks, looks worse than Junior College Photography class!!! No Offense!! But come on lets get real, like AB! Good luck with the CNN boss!!! Best, O LA

    November 6, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • WarMachine99

      Sounds like you are referring to the episode in Lebanon. Certainly not the best, given the situation.

      November 6, 2012 at 5:26 am |
  15. PLEASE READ, ANTHONY BOURDAIN

    first, great post. yes, yes, yes, we need to support any and all people that were out there and trying to help during the storm,

    secondly, i saw one food-related travesty in that first week and i was hoping you could use your clout to do something. a few famous famiglia pizza's were open downtown, and were able to do brisk business–a first for that garbage food, i'm sure. a few locations were doing things like selling cold slices for $6 a pop a cold pies for $40, to people willing to wait on line forever, desperate for food. we need to petition their management or start a boycott or something. that dreck was bad enough, passing itself off as NY pizza when times were good...but for franchise owners or whoever, to turn on their own neighbors like that in a time of struggle and desperation, is inexcusable.

    November 6, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • sciGuy

      Go to the back of the class. You dont understand econ101. By raising their prices to adjust to demand they maximized their profit yes. And that is good. But they also ensured thereby that people would buy only what they needed, so that there would be more needs met with their limited supply.

      November 6, 2012 at 6:25 am |
  16. conner_macleod

    There are over 10 million people in the NYC area itself, let alone all the neighboring cities/states affected by this disaster, do all the haters in these comments seriously think that all of these people are rich snobs that don't need help? Reality check, the vast majority of these people are middle-class or poor, just like the rest of America, so the more we help, the better off all these victims will be.

    It's really sad to see so many people with so much hatred for one's fellow man, and there's really not much logic going on. The "snobs" make up maybe 1% of the population, at best, and NYC and the surrounding area is no different. If you actually read what Anthony is saying, he's suggesting that those of us who can AFFORD it go out and spend a little to help these people. Btw, he's appealing to those who are visiting or living in that area, it should be beyond obvious he's not talking about restaurants in other parts of the country, that wouldn't make any sense.

    What makes our country great is our ability to help those in need, it's not necessarily the Christian (insert religion) thing to do, it's the right, kind and compassionate thing to do. If you don't afford it, don't live in the NYC area, then you have nothing to worry about, but for those who do, it's a decent, considerate suggestion by Bourdain. The ones who are hating on him and New Yorkers show far more about how horrible they are then any negative character traits of Bourdain or the imaginary majority of rich snobs who live in the hurricane disaster zone. Think before you speak.

    November 6, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • Alkedda

      I didn't see very many New Yorkers or East Coast magnates come to New Orleans when Katrina came through... I didn't see anyone from the north-east help out when BP brought the seafood industry to a halt... You're tough New York. Walk it off!

      November 6, 2012 at 3:04 am |
      • conner_macleod

        I don't know the answer to that, but millions donated money to Katrina from all across the country. It's ridiculous to speculate which state gave or helped the most, the point is to forget petty differences and help each other as fellow Americans, as fellow human beings. With that kind of pessimistic attitude the status quo will devolve. Hard to believe there are so many malcontents out there unwilling to help one another, it's really sad. Forget about yourself for a moment and think about doing something good for someone else for a change, enough with the pessimism and self-pity, who knows you may feel better about yourself if you help another person by making a positive difference in their life.

        November 6, 2012 at 6:37 am |
      • conner_macleod

        Oh and you completely missed my point btw of the "magnates" making up less than 1% of New Yorkers/east coast people, in what fantasy world are all New Yorkers and New Englanders industry magnate fat cats? This whole mentality lacks a foundation of facts/logic. The vast majority, once again, of the people affected by this natural disaster are average joes, because guess what, that's the majority of the US population. Sandy didn't magically target billionaires which somehow prompted them to cry out for help. Wow, just wow, the fallacies of online posters in general never ceases to astound me.

        November 6, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Buck

      Rich or poor, you northerners lack civility, and you're as pompous and arrogant as you are rude.

      November 8, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  17. Jim

    What is wrong with people. All Tony was doing was suggesting ways people could help those hurt by Sandy. A few years ago people would have not condemned him but offer more ways to help. This has to end.

    November 6, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • Yuliq

      Hey Jim... America was there when 9-11 happened... America paid the price. But when Americans were out of work, forced from their homes and starving on the streets, no one came forward to offer a hand unless they were holding a hammer in the other. WE'RE AMERICANS! We don't need handouts or celebrities speaking for us, because THEY CAN'T FEEL OUT PAIN!

      November 6, 2012 at 3:10 am |
      • Right on

        Exactly. I wasn't really that choked up in 2001, and would probably change the channel if it happened again. I H* NY.

        November 6, 2012 at 6:29 am |
        • Caution

          ^^^ Don't feed the troll, don't even respond,. This should be the only response he gets. DON'T FEED THE TROLL!!

          November 6, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  18. Flytings

    You know, I come from a tiny village in rural New Hampshire. Our house was on a dirt road, and our neighbors were farmers. I went to New York city the first time when I was nine. I'd never seen a taxi, or ridden on a metropolitan bus, or a subway. When I was 17, I went with a college class, and wandered around by myself. Kind strangers told me how to take busses and the subway from Broadway to the Cloisters. Kind food servers in restaurants told me other affordable restaurants I should try, because I wanted to try Greek and Polish and what I referred to as "real" Chinese food.

    I've been back several times since as someone who is visually disabled and have had kind strangers give me directions, tell me which train to take, suggest book stores and bars and restaurants.

    And often, helpful enthusiastic people who loved New York were the wait staff or bus boys at restaurants or people with food trucks.

    I'll absolutely be trying to send cash to the East coast, but especially to those hard working under paid and very necessary people who work in food service and retail and transportation, and schools.

    November 6, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  19. eating out

    I remember about 7 years back when I was served by a happy face at KFC. Last night I was served again by a pleasant person at MCD. I have been to all sorts of restaurants and it is always a jaded look and pressure for high tips (I tip at least 20%) and fast food places are even worse. I no longer eat out, the food in bad, ingredients are poor, attitude is bad. I have no money to blow on eating out. I will rather eat healthy at home, save money and donate what I save.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  20. Thatguy371

    Bourdain brings forth some valid points. We do need to help those effected by this terrible storm. Best to all of you up there who have been negatively effected by this.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  21. ObamaWillLose

    I'd love to eat out but Nanny Bloomturd won't let me buy a large coke in NYC.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • kmehltretter3415

      Yea because thats what NYC cuisine is all about...fountain soda.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Five7

      I'm not sure then that this article is for you. McDonalds and Wendy's doesn't require you to tip.

      November 8, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  22. Bryan

    I love what Bourdain has to say. Very knowledgeable.

    November 5, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Tony

      I like Bordain too, but, I think the heroin addiction, *CONTINUED ALCOHOLISM*, and methadone addiction for 20 years has RAVAGED his body, sadly.

      He's ending his T.V. career now–I'm beginning to wonder if he simply has cancer, because he's GOT that "cachexic" (i.e. starving), lanky look of somebody "on-their-way-out."

      I hope he's okay, but I wouldn't put money on it.

      November 6, 2012 at 12:54 am |
      • Sapphire

        You're too used to seeing fat people. AB looks to be at a healthy weight.

        November 6, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • OptimisticLA

      Hey AB! I have to say I've seen all of your episodes!!! And PERU and OSAKA! in my opinion were BY_FAR the BEST!!! Realism no fancy BS just a taste of culture and no holds bared, jump into culture and heritage!!! In Lebanon or Jordan, I can't remember, but you looked FKn stressed, so the episode actually SckD big time! No offense!!!! And Whoever took the photos for this article Scks, looks worse than Junior College Photography class!!! No Offense!! But come on lets get real, like AB! Good luck with the CNN boss!!! Best, O LA

      November 6, 2012 at 2:44 am |
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