NYC's Best Chefs Are Fighting Voter Suppression With Cooking Classes

Kitchen Rodeo has raised more than $70,000 since the start of quarantine

kitchen rodeo
NYC's chefs want you to stuff the ballot box and your bread box.
@Dubngo/Instagram
By Austa Somvichian-Clausen / June 26, 2020 11:58 am

It seems as if it were just yesterday that Americans became obsessed with bread-baking as an unexpected result of pandemic driven boredom, but, simultaneously, like it’s already been a full 100 years. Time is weird like that right now. 

Regardless, while many of us were raiding supermarkets for the last bags of flour and hopefully a few rolls of toilet paper, Frank Harris was emotionally recovering from the cancellation of an entire professional course he had enrolled in to learn about the art of bread baking. Instead of retiring his KitchenAid in defeat, Harris decided to put something together with his friends.

Soon enough, a 21-hour Zoom class was arranged to teach participants how to make focaccia from scratch, from which the proceeds were donated to charity.

“We didn’t really know what to expect — whether people would enjoy it, whether or not they’d want to sign up. But we were really kind of surprised to find almost 30 people joined as we made the pre-ferment together, learned how to knead dough, and then ultimately ate focaccia together,” says Betty Liao from Kitchen Rodeo. “It was kind of just like this magical experience, and I believe we were raising money for City Harvest.”

One of the best byproducts of activism, in our humble opinion, is when everyone involved walks away from the experience having learned something valuable. That’s exactly what happened there that day, and the idea stuck — part of a growing tide of small, homegrown initiatives by folks who just want to help out.

Thus Kitchen Rodeo was born, and the team began working with out-of-commission, award-winning chefs to raise money for struggling restaurant staff members and NYC-based charities, as participants learned how to bake soufflés and braise oxtail from the comfort of their home kitchens. So far they’ve already raised over $70,000 to support causes like ROAR, One Fair Wage and Frontline Foods.

Now, a series of classes is about to begin that features chefs from some of the best Asian restaurants around New York City, like Di An Di’s Dennis Ngo teaching how to make Hakka Stir Fry or Hong Thaimee’s class on Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice. It all benefits Fair Fight, a Georgia-based organization that promotes fair elections around the country, encourages voter participation in elections and helps educate voters about their rights. 

The series is a partnership between Kitchen Rodeo and Annie Shi of Soho’s King dubbed “Cooking For Equity: Asian Chefs for Black Lives,” and you can sign up for one of the classes here. There are currently 10 taking enrollment, and the next one — Hong Thaimee’s sticky rice — is tonight at 6 p.m.