The stage inside the New Orleans concert hall the howling wolf was dark and calm after Hurricane Ida cut off power to the area. But on the sidewalk just outside, a wood-fired barbecue smoker was puffing and going, propane-powered seafood cooking platforms roared, and someone was blasting tunes over a portable speaker that also served as a telephone charging station.
The howling wolf was cooking again.
Music club @Howlinwolfnola quickly turned into a hub for community food, taking food from restaurants emptying their kitchens into the #ida Blackout. They need outdoor barbecues and more chefs and other volunteers. S. Peters in St Joseph pic.twitter.com/2FZUI974pW
– Ian McNulty (@IanMcNultyNOLA) September 1, 2021
Volunteers and paid workers produced thousands of meals, using food donated by a constellation of different local restaurants, to be distributed for free across town or served on the sidewalk.
Since Ida’s outage began, restaurants around the world have distributed ingredients fresh from their kitchens, eager to see people use them before they spoil themselves.
The Howlin ‘Wolf quickly became a central collection point for many with the same instinct.
On the second day after Hurricane Ida ravaged the region, more and more people began to try to replenish their food, water and ice reserves. They found the man …
Club owner Howie Kaplan had organized a similar effort in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis to feed those in need, working with a large network of other organizations and volunteers. This network returned to action after Ida.
“It’s literally putting the pieces together. We are so united in this city. It was just people talking to each other, and the support started, ”Kaplan said.
Donations ranged from 700 pounds of shrimp, crates of chicken for the smoker, cold cuts for the sandwiches, okra in rows of five gallon buckets and bushels of fresh bread. The supplies quickly covered the surface of the bar and were piled into the corners of the club.
Food arrived from all points and left in different ways, including for people who show up at Howlin ‘Wolf for meals, for first responders, for elderly care facilities and even for a group of linemen who arrived to help fix the grid.
On the second day after the storm, the effort produced some 2,000 meals. The next day it hit 3,000 and continued to grow.
Everything is happening at a frantic pace, but also through partnerships forged within the company. When Kaplan realized he needed a refrigerated truck to hold all of the incoming cold ingredients, his beer dispenser dispatched one. The owner of a nearby machine shop brought his dumpster. Cochon Butcher staff around the corner drove with this trailer-fitter smoker.
The Culture Aid NOLA community volunteer group coordinated volunteers and donations through their website (cultureaidnola.org/ida). The group also has an Amazon “wishlist” for the items needed here: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2BQZV2E4DLFIB?ref_=wl_share.
“We have the volunteers, they know the chefs, they know how to cook, we know how to organize and distribute,” said Erica Chomsky-Adelson, founder of Culture Aid NOLA.
“Whatever we put in, we can take it out, and it has to happen now,” she said.
She has made an urgent appeal for essential supplies including propane, ice, outdoor grills and also people who can come and help cook.
In addition to providing meals for the groups, the Howlin ‘Wolf feeding effort provided walk-in meals available daily.
At the time of this writing, the organizers were evaluating a different location for the effort. See updates at nola.com/wherenolaeats.
Classes were suspended at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute after Hurricane Ida, but the downtown culinary school offered a…