Plant Talk

Back in the Kitchen to Help Those in Need

Posted in Behind the Scenes on May 6, 2020, by Catie Cuellar

Catie Cuellar is General Manager of the Constellation Culinary Group at The New York Botanical Garden. Constellation operates the Hudson Garden Grill and Pine Tree Café and manages special events at NYBG.


Catie Cuellar, General Manager of the Constellation Culinary Group at The New York Botanical Garden, alongside trays of meals to be donated.

Catie Cuellar, General Manager of the Constellation Culinary Group at The New York Botanical Garden

Good food connects us, and even during these uncertain times, Constellation Culinary Group and its catering team have looked to find an outlet to continue to do what we do best—feed people.

Our commissary, located in the Bronx, just blocks away from NYBG, has produced many of the seasonal dishes you have come to know and love from your visits to events at the Stone Mill or the Garden Terrace Room. On a busy day, our commissary might produce a thousand or so meals to support Constellation’s events in New York, both at NYBG and beyond. By mid-March production at our commissary was severely diminished due to the Covid-19 “stay at home” measures, and many of our employees were working remotely.

 

Constellation Culinary Group chef Ali Loukzada cooking at a stove.

Constellation Culinary Group chef Ali Loukzada

In early April, we were contacted by our sister company, Preferred Meals, a provider of fresh and frozen meals nationally.  They needed additional support to expand their local capacity and ramp up production to provide more meals for the food-insecure in New York City. Our team rallied quickly and devised an operational plan to jump into production and start cooking. As of last week, we have reinstated over 200 jobs in our commissaries in the Bronx, Tarrytown, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., and have pivoted to fresh meal production for those in need. This week we will be producing over 210,000 meals over 7 days. The production capacity of our Bronx commissary is at an all-time high, producing over 4,000 meals a day.

It feels amazing and productive to be back in our kitchens, albeit while practicing social distancing and wearing personal protective gear—safety first!

 

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