The Chef’s Market drive-thru, the newest San Jose restaurant initiative to help feed the needy, isn’t just a win-win.

It’s a “win-win-win-win” in the words of one downtown booster.

From today, Dec. 30, through Jan. 12, five downtown San Jose restaurants are teaming up to prepare takeout meals as part of a project created by chef Rodney Baca’s new nonprofit venture. For every meal that is ordered, the cooks will make a second meal to be donated to the families served by San Jose SHIP Kits and Hunger at Home.

But the benefits extend beyond that.

“So, you get a meal, the less fortunate get a meal, restaurants and cooks get some much-needed business and the city of San Jose can benefit from some activity in the heart of downtown. It’s a win-win-win-win situation,” said Eric Glader, the San Jose Downtown Association’s new community engagement director and co-founder of the SHIP Kits group, formed for this shelter-in-place era.

Baca, who runs The Shop by Chef Baca at the San Pedro Square Market and the Baca Systems nonprofit, came up with the idea as a way of helping both those who have lost jobs to this tough coronavirus economy and the downtown restaurants that are still in business but struggling to survive.

“Our restaurant community has gone through so much from coronavirus, stay-at-home orders, fires and poor air quality, but we have been resilient,” Baca said, noting that many downtown eateries open every day despite it being a money-losing proposition. “Why? Because people can enjoy our food, because we can keep people employed and because we love our community.”

Four other restaurateurs are joining him in the effort: Juan Sosaya of Jora Peruvian, Robee Sada of Robee’s Falafel, Carlos Perez of Loteria Taco Bar and Josh Hyland with his brand-new eatery, Hyland House of Sushi.

Here’s how the Chef’s Market works: Go to the website and order off the online menu. Every $25 offering from the five restaurants is a full meal with entree, salad or soup, dessert and bottled water. That same meal will be prepared twice, once for the customer and once for donation. (Or customers may donate both meals.)

Then swing by the 300 S. Second St. parking lot (at San Carlos Street) for socially distanced curbside pickup. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during the two-week run.

The menu features:

— Jora Peruvian: Lomo saltado (beef tenderloin) or chaufa de pollo with side dishes, quinoa salad and alfajores cookie.

— Hyland House of Sushi: Tuna-crab poke bowls with miso soup and teriyaki bento boxes with edamame salad, plus castella cake.

— Robee’s Falafel: Chicken kebab or lamb-beef gyro platters with salad, sides and homemade baklava.

— Loteria Taco Bar: Quesabirria tacos, enchiladas or carne asada burritos with sides, salad and Mexican vanilla apple tart.

— The Shop by Chef Baca: Smoked brisket, house-cured pastrami or East Side burger with sides, salad and creme brulee.

Three of the restaurants — Robee’s, Loteria and Chef Baca — are also selling family meals for four.

Baca says he hopes this initiative inspires the pre-Covid customer base, from the one-lawyer office to the large tech companies, banks and other big employers, to support the restaurants that hosted their lunches, happy hour gatherings and business dinners before the March shutdown.

“What if individuals see the destruction our small businesses face and decide to make a choice to help them rather than read about closures in the paper?” he said.

Details: https://chefsmarket1.square.site/  


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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