Former co-executive chef and owner of Maydan Chris Morgan sat down with DC Magazine to discuss the future of the restaurant industry and his new organization #SaveDCEats.
What prompted the idea to create #SaveDCEats?
I left my position as co-executive chef and co-owner of Maydan in November of last year with my business partner, co-executive chef Gerald Addison, to pursue opening our own restaurant together. We were two weeks out from disclosing our concept to the DMV and opening the doors when COVID-19 hit. We were devastated. The main devastation was that our staff, most of whom left their old jobs to help us open, were left without work. My sister, Sara Morgan, and I were on the phone daily trying to figure out how to help them out. We were in the process of building a grassroots fundraiser for DC restaurants when we were introduced to the team from Save Philly Eats. After connecting with David Bookspan and Anthony Bucci of the Save Philly Eats team over a short Zoom call, we became confident that our motives, goals and principles were aligned, and I then became—once again thanks to them—the city team leader for #SaveDCEats.
Do you see these curated experiences as a trend that will remain after Covid-19?
I believe curated experiences will not be just a thing of the moment. People, in my opinion, are not going to feel comfortable, even as bans are lifted, to return to visiting restaurants as they did once before, at least not for a while. I have no idea how long that will be, and frankly, I do not believe anyone has that answer. I hope that we can help make up those inevitable financial losses and lost interactions with our individual offers, all the while giving people fun and exciting curated experiences.
What are some of the experiences offered by #SaveDCEats?
An exclusive Little Sesame dinner for 10 a Himitsu throwback dinner for two hosted by Chef Kevin Tiena; a farm-to-table dining experience for 20 by Shilling Canning Company; Emilie's in-home dining experience for four; a lamb roast for 15 people hosted by me and Gerald Addison; and in-home dining experience with American Son's Tim Ma, just to name a few.
Everyone is trying to organize and help right now. How is #SaveDCEats fitting into the landscape of ways people can support? How is it different than just ordering take-out/delivery or getting gift cards?
There is currently a good number of chefs and restaurants that have started GoFundMe pages and/or have found other ways to raise capital (i.e. gift cards, merchandise, etc.) #SaveDCEats offers an opportunity for us to list everything in the same place as well as encourage others to join with little effort involved. Once again, we are stronger together! Also, #SaveDCEats is much more than just gift cards. Current offers range from Zoom wine classes to private in-home experiential dinners to chefs table experiences. A big part of our goal is to help the people of our community get through this tough time and giving them something to look forward to (i.e. a post quarantine celebration with friends and a badass chef in your kitchen), while also giving back. It's a win-win!
How has the response been so far?
The response thus far has been incredible, from chefs, restaurants and the DMV community. We are already reaching back out to the restaurants that posted offers a short week ago to see what else they can come up with because people ARE asking! People are looking for ways to give back right now, and this is a great way for people to do that. We are hoping that with more exposure we will have more people reach out to be featured on our site. Any bar, restaurant, bakery, brewery, wine bar, ice cream shop, etc. can sign up. All we need is a point of contact, what you want to offer, a landing page (which we will help you set up through Eventbrite if you do not already have one) and your logo.
Photography by: Courtesy of #SaveDCEats