Amanda Cohen on Post-Pandemic Restaurant Survival

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The restaurant industry was hit incredibly hard by the pandemic. In 2020, Add Passion and Stir connected with chefs to learn how the pandemic was affecting them. We’re revisiting these inspiring conversations to showcase the resilience of the restaurant industry and its commitment to service.

When we spoke with Amanda Cohen of NYC’s Dirt Candy in April 2020, the shutdown in New York City was only weeks old. Cohen said she and other chefs were struggling with reopening their restaurants after the crisis has passed. “How are we going to reopen? What am I reopening to? Who still has money to go out in this city? And who wants to go to a crowded restaurant?,” she asks. She has long been an outspoken advocate for fair restaurant industry practices. She is also a leader on eliminating tipping in her restaurant. Dirt Candy offers a starting hourly wage of $25/hour, as well as paid time off, paid sick leave, health insurance, and continuing education. “If we reopen the same way as we closed, we will have literally learned nothing,” she says.

Click here to hear the original interview with Amanda Cohen. [https://www.shareourstrength.org/podcast/restaurant-survival-after-the-covid-19-pandemic]

Resources and Mentions:

Amanda Cohen

Amanda Cohen

James Beard-nominated chef and owner of Dirt Candy restaurant in New York City. After graduating from the Natural Gourmet Cookery School, she worked at Angelica’s Kitchen, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and Blanche’s Organic Café before opening Dirt Candy. Cohen was the first vegetarian chef to compete on Iron Chef: America and she is one of the Iron Chefs on Iron Chef: Canada. Her comic book cookbook, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, is the first graphic novel cookbook to be published in North America.

Dirt Candy

Dirt Candy was the first vegetable-focused restaurant in the city and is a pioneer of the vegetable-forward movement. It was the first restaurant in the city to eliminate tipping and share profits with its employees. Dirt Candy is included in Paul Freedman’s Ten Restaurants That Changed America. It became the first vegetarian restaurant in 17 years to receive two stars from the New York Times and was recognized by the Michelin Guide five years in a row.

Independent Restaurant Coalition

The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed to save the local restaurants and bars affected by COVID-19 and the subsequent economic fallout. Together, they represent 500,000 small businesses across this country, playing a key role in the $760 billion restaurant economy.

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