Erik Bruner-Yang on the Power of 10

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, August 04, 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.

In May 2020, Add Passion and Stir connected with Chef Erik Bruner-Yang (Maketto, ABC Pony, Foreign National) who said that for him the pandemic “…has been a wake-up call… I’ve always been wading in the water of being a public servant and [I’m] finally jumping into it.” In this updated episode, we return to the conversation we had with Bruner-Yang about the effects of the pandemic and establishing the Power of 10 Initiative to help those in need and share updates on how things are going now. As Bruner-Yang shared recently, “No matter how much people want the pandemic to be over, the effects are going to be generational and programs like The Power of 10 which started as an emergency response has turned into a long term effort.”

Click here to hear the original interview with Erik Bruner-Yang.

Resources and Mentions:

Erik Bruner-Yang

Kicked off his hospitality career as general manager of Sticky Rice, a sushi restaurant in Washington DC. Around this time, he developed a deeper appreciation for Taiwanese cuisine. In 2011, he opened Toki Underground, a ramen shop that won Eater DC’s “Best New Restaurant” the same year. Bruner-Yang has since opened several other DC establishments, including Maketto, a three-level Asian market with a retail store, coffee shop, and restaurant; and Paper Horse, a fast-casual ramen stand inside Whole Foods. His most recent projects include two venues inside the swanky Line Hotel: Brothers and Sisters, which interprets global classics from the era of grand hotels, and teensy Spoken English, a standing-room-only space modeled after Japanese tachinomiyas. All Bruner-Yang concepts are housed under the group Foreign National. He was nominated for James Beard’s “Rising Star Chef” in 2015 and was a semifinalist for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” in 2016.

Power of 10

A Letter From Chef Erik Bruner-Yang:

To Whom It May Concern, Every neighborhood has a restaurant that is an extension of your home. It is the space where you have your first dates, celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and hold school charity functions. No one knows neighbors more than the restaurants that serve you every day. These neighborhood restaurants are independently-owned, usually operate with a team of less than thirty staff, and unfortunately lack the resources to face challenges like a rapidly expanding pandemic. I confidently believe there is no other group of hardworking people that can tackle a situation like those in the restaurant industry. We must address two immediate problems that the community is tragically experiencing during COVID-19: loss of jobs and access to food. We are modeling the strategy of mobilizing resilient restaurant workers during the fallout of COVID-19. The restaurant community c an show the rest of America that The Power of 10 works and can be applied to any community across our nation. Here’s how it works: If a restaurant were to receive $10,000 a week during this crisis, it could create 10 full-time jobs and provide 1,000 free meals to its direct community. By Monday, March 30th, this organization hopes to assist in mobilizing three restaurants with this simple math. Small businesses are the backbone of America and neighborhood restaurants are the anchors of every great community. Stimulating the local economy through neighborhood businesses allows its community to play a vital role in tackling the collateral damage of COVID-19. With the ability to provide jobs again, small business es will relieve the unemployment safety net. Restaurants will also be providing quality hot meals and keeping the supply chain intact by supporting local farmers and vendors. I hope to show that The Power of 10 model can be applied to any neighborhood in America. $10,000 a week in donations will provide 10 full-time jobs and 1,000 free meals to any community. This pilot program will be a model that local governments can implement across the nation, proving what the collective power of individuals and organizations can achieve. ‍ Thank you for your time.

Recent Podcasts


Wednesday, September 01, 2021