Author: Jonathan White for the Allentown Association Newsletter
Some things are worth the wait. Even if it takes seven years.
Big Big Table, a not-for-profit community café officially opens its doors for business. Overseen by a volunteer board and driven by the effusive founder/chef Mandy Bailey, Big Big Table is Buffalo’s first pay-as-you-can restaurant.
An open house featuring free samples of Blue Table Chocolates and other treats was held last Friday evening to preview the restaurant.
The Buffalo community café is part of the One World Everybody Eats Network. Board President Stephanie Smith said that while it was a long journey to get to Hudson Street, the stars aligned with the perfect location along with the willingness of others to help support the mission. Lucile Altieri, whose “The Difference Kitchen” was the last occupant of the space, arranged to sell all of the kitchen equipment to help ensure that the Big Big Table kitchen is properly equipped. (Altieri was formerly co-owner of Presto Restaurant on Allen at Franklin Street). Funds for the equipment was raised through a $15,000 crowdfunding campaign. The building owner, whose family once operated a restaurant in the space, has also been very supportive.
A grant from the Garman Foundation will pay salary for a community/operations manager as well as a co-chef/kitchen manager to work with Bailey and an Americorps volunteer will also work at the site. Smith said that the staff will work to build wider relationships within the community. Corporate gifts and foundation grants received will ensure that the operation can meet expenses for at least 6 months while operations ramp up.
The café motto is “Everybody eats. Everybody gives. Everybody matters”. And everyone is welcome. Smith says that “whether a customer pays 20 cents for a meal or 20 dollars, everyone will be treated the same with warmth and dignity.”
Bailey exudes that warmth and her effervescent smile makes it clear that all are welcome even without saying a word. Bailey has modeled the café on a successful community restaurant in Denver, Colorado – the SAME café (So All May Eat). The mission of Big Big Table is to address hunger, reduce food waste and build community.
As part of the mission to reduce food waste, the café will accept food donations from other restaurants, farms and food manufacturers that are “imperfect” and would not sell in markets. But, as Bailey put it, “an ugly carrot isn’t ugly when it’s in a well-prepared dish.”
Big Big Table is open for business at 272 Hudson Street.
Serving lunch Monday through Friday 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM