A CHEF’S TIME with CORONA + FIRE DAYS…An Essay by Chef Amy Murray

by Amy Murray, owner Revival Bar and Kitchen Berkeley


Volunteer Family getting ready to deliver meals to evacuees and firefighters in Petaluma.

August 28, 2020

By now, we are dancing in step to our collective Bay Area pandemic routine, masks in place, sanitizer at the ready, distances kept. Early adopters of common sense and proper protocols, this community has a huge heart and eager willingness to help.

Last saturday I awoke to more horrible news (and acrid smoke) of the lightning-storm turned massive wildfires that were burning in every direction across our fair state. I wanted to do something for all the evacuees and fire fighters. I had plenty of food in my restaurant’s walk-in fridge, and I knew that the good people of this community also felt eager to do something to help.

I have been jumping into action mode since the Pandemic began. How can I stand by and watch people struggle and suffer when I have a spacious restaurant with enough cooking equipment to make hundreds of boxed meals in a few hours?

Thanks to our dear community of givers, I had plenty of practice feeding those in need since late March. East Bay FeedER was started practically overnight by Ayelet Waldman and a team of amazing volunteers to keep approx 70 restaurants working feeding all the East Bay Hospitals, Elder Care Assisted Living facilities, and Community Health Care Centers. We cooked 3 meals a week for about 3 months, enjoying every minute of their excellent volunteer organization which brought so many people joy and comfort in the giving and receiving of hot meals.

The City of Berkeley stepped up early, too, with “Double Helping Hands”, (an organization begun by Dorothy Day House and the Downtown Berkeley Association) to get 100-150 hot meals to our local unhoused population, while also providing work for our local restaurants for the past five months. It is this very energy of care and support that keeps “our battery charged” as we endure the struggles of living during a pandemic. And now, the massive wildfires.

When I read the news feed last Saturday, I had one option. I had to volunteer to feed the evacuees and firefighters, and I had to do it right then and there. I posted a request for volunteers and connections to get food out to the front lines at 10:30 am. Within 40 minutes I had a connection to a volunteer organization in Napa that fed firefighters, police and frontline workers, and 6 volunteers, including a driver willing to drive through heavy smoke to deliver the meals to Vacaville. We met up at 2:00, knocked out some tasty cardamom-clove basmati pilaf, lentil stew, and a tomato vegetable curry (all veggies purchased from the Berkeley Local Farmer’s Market), with papadam and cucumber-dill raita. One of the volunteers was the 14 year old Ruby, a talented artist, who drew a sign thanking the firefighters. The driver took off at 5:00, and 45 people got fed some tasty hot dinner, giving them a big dose of love and support during their grueling shifts as they battle the fire line to protect our cities, and our lives.

This community is rich in humanity. People are eager to donate their time, skills, money and whatever they can to assist those in need. I have a waiting list of names to call for the next volunteer meal we do this sunday. I am so inspired, and so grateful to live amongst such good, pro-active people.

These are trying times, but we are coming through them with enriched spirits, thanks to all of you who care and who give.

Amy Murray
Revival Bar+Kitchen
Berkeley, CA