It’s a time-honored tradition. In the finest restaurants across the world, everyone from the kitchen staff, to the headwaiter shares a family meal before or after regular service hours. Historically, it is a chef-prepared meal and all staff sit down and eat together just like a family.
During COVID-19, the “family meal” disappeared as hundreds of restaurant workers locally lost their jobs as restaurants closed their doors to seated patrons, furloughed their workers, and rolled out new carryout meals. When local chef, Jordan Lloyd began thinking about his colleagues in the businesses who were being affected by the shutdowns, he and his team at the Wylder Hotel Tilghman Island decided to resurrect the family meal in a take-out capacity to help feed hospitality workers whose jobs were lost due to the pandemic.
“The restaurant community here is very tight,” Lloyd said. “We all try and support each other. We were all talking at the hotel one day about how much we missed our teammates and wondering how we could help them through this difficult time. I have been lucky to be a part of this community for 12 years – this is my community and these are my peers. Wylder is really special for allowing us to do this.”
Kristin Seymour, General Manager for the Wylder Hotel Tilghman Island, added, “At Wylder Hotel, we see each other as a family. It is showing now more than ever. We had been having our own ‘family meal’ every day with just the managers who were left working for the hotel and were looking for ways we could help our own employees. The idea just took hold. This project allows hospitality workers to help hospitality workers. It’s about going full circle with what we do.”
The Talbot County Department of Economic Development and Tourism stepped forward with seed money to get the project started. The funds came from both donations and a small allocation from the tourism marketing budget.
“The food scene in Talbot County really helps tell the story about who we are and what is important to us,” said Cassandra Vanhooser, Director of Economic Development and Tourism. “Now, our hospitality workers are hurting, and I am so honored that Jordan asked me to help.
“This project supports the unseen workers who do the heavy lift every day to make our hospitality industry successful,” she continued ”These are often the people who get little thanks for the part they play in the hospitality industry here.”
Vanhooser calls Lloyd’s meals, “boxes of love.” She added, “This gift is part of a love offering of sorts to say thank you to the industry and its workers who are bearing the brunt of this shutdown.”
Chef Jordan Lloyd plans and cooks the meals during the weekend hours, and the Wylder Hotel team assembles and packages the meals on Sundays for distribution on Mondays. The Family Meal project provides one meal per person every week and one meal is enough for two people. Workers can request two meals for a family of three or four. Prepared meals are ready for pick-up between 12 and 2 p.m. at the Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton.
Chef Lloyd’s meals are prepared using products from local farmers and purveyors to support local businesses on the Mid-Shore. He stated, “The local farmers want to discount their food, but we are not allowing it. They are historically the givers in our community, but these funds are meant to help them too during this difficult time.”
The first delivery of Family Meals was made on Monday, April 13 to 80 unemployed hospitality workers in Talbot County. The first week’s menu included meatloaf, rice, carrots, salad, homemade dinner rolls, and a gallon of milk. Local businesses contributing to the meal included Cottingham Farms, Tilghman Island Baking Company, and Nice Farms Creamery. Lloyd will be reaching out to other local food sources as the project continues.
Alonzo Doby, a waiter with Limoncello in St. Michaels, commented, “This means the world to me. It’s a big struggle right now. All of a sudden everything was just cut off. People are really helping out in any way that they can.”
Kim Joel, a server with St. Michaels Crab and Steakhouse, added, “What they are doing is a great way to help the community.”
The General Manager of the Hampton Inn in Easton, Jeff Schneider, picked up four meals to deliver to the housekeeping staff at the Hampton Inn. “I have several Hispanic families who have worked for us for nine or 10 years.,” he said. “They are hesitant to access the resources for their families right now, so anything I can do to help and support them, I am doing. This community is really coming together.”
Both Lloyd and Seymour hope that the message on each week’s meal packaging offers hope to its recipients. This week’s message said, “From our family to yours, during these trying times. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay strong. Thank you Talbot County Hospitality Workers.”
Anyone who received a meal the first week will automatically get a meal for next week. Lloyd is hopeful that the demand will increase for these home-cooked meals and encourages workers to sign up on the website familymealtalbot.org or by visiting Family meal in Talbot County on Facebook.
To donate to the Family Meal Project, visit talbotfamilymeal.org. Food items are also being accepted as donations for the Family Meal Project. Email Jordan Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.