2020-06-12 | Chevy New Roads Magazine
Giving Back, Not Giving In
Gratitude: Big Easy Style
Chevy owners are the heartbeat of America. And all over the country we’re hearing stories of people acting with integrity, unselfishness, and guts. Our “Giving Back, Not Giving In” series shines a light on these everyday heroes, giving of themselves to help their neighbors and communities survive and thrive.
Things are looking brighter for New Orleans residents and fans of the restaurant Johnny Sánchez. Miles Landrem—the establishment’s chef and part owner—steered his team through the worst early stages of the coronavirus crisis by giving back to his neighborhood in his Chevy Tahoe, with help from those same neighbors.
“People down here realize how fragile restaurants are, and that they’re important in the community,” says NOLA native Landrem. “This is New Orleans, where people are talking about what they’re going to have for dinner while they’re eating their lunch.” The chef, who worked food service jobs in college and went on to study at New York’s prestigious International Culinary Center, talked with genuine gratitude about the support his restaurant received in the early days of the stay-at-home declaration.
Landrem and his business partner, celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez, elected to close the restaurant’s busy dining room after the first state-wide emergency declarations were issued. But the community rallied to support Johnny Sánchez, and the restaurant returned the favor. “We’ve rehired 38 workers as of today,” Landrem notes.
The path back to the mid-May dining room reopening—at 25 percent capacity, about 30 people—presented huge challenges that turned out to be great opportunities for community service.
People down here realize how fragile restaurants are, and that they’re important in the community. This is New Orleans, where people are talking about what they’re going to have for dinner while they’re eating their lunch.
Talking about the early days of the crisis, Landrem says, “We weren’t going down without a fight.” Landrem and Sánchez were still relatively new owners of the establishment when the city shuttered to flatten the curve. With most of his staff laid off, a skeleton crew transformed the restaurant’s operations from dine-in to carryout. “We were really surprised at how successful we were at doing that,” recalls Landrem. The new temporary business model quickly gained momentum.
Landrem explains how the community and restaurant supported each other: “One way was food giveaways to the New Orleans Police and the Louisiana State Police. Plus we took food for the first responders at VA facilities and nursing homes.”
The restaurant’s suppliers and regulars pitched in. “They’d come to the restaurant every other day and make $300 or $400 orders that they’d then take [to a hospital] and donate,” says Landrem. “One construction company even called us to say, ‘We want to feed a hospital shift,’ and we matched their budget to make it happen because they could only give us $3 or $4 a head. It made us feel good to be helping the front-line workers.”
Landrem estimates that 500-plus meals went to support law enforcement, more than 350 to nursing home staff, and over 750 meals to furloughed hospitality workers and musicians.
Many of those deliveries were made by Landrem himself in his 2017 Tahoe. “It’s my third one,” he says. “I had a two-door 1998 and a 2006.” The chef often retreats to his restaurant’s small parking lot when he needs to concentrate, “I call the Tahoe my office. The restaurant has a small office, but it’s really crowded and busy. The Tahoe is the only place where I can get my thoughts together, make up a menu, or write a schedule.”
It also plays a role in Landrem’s life beyond his business. “I love to go fishing. I can pull a trailer with the Tahoe. It’s a great truck. I wouldn’t have anything else. I’ll drive one of these until the day I die.”
Landrem is cautiously optimistic about the balance of 2020. “We just received a big shipment of custom masks, and the staff is ready to come back. We like having people in our restaurant. If anybody can handle it, we can.”
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STORY: REX ROY / PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS GRANGER / ILLUSTRATION: KELSEY MONTAGUE