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Restaurants around New York raise money for Ukraine

Restauranteurs around the city are doing their part to raise money for victims in Ukraine. Garry Kanfer, who’s from a Ukrainian Jewish family, is one: The owner of the Kissaki mini-empire of omakase-focused eateries has helped build a new nonprofit to get money to the war-torn country and its people. “We are devoted to finding projects directly,” Kanfer said of America for Ukraine, the new nonprofit. “We don’t fund middle men. We have no expenses. We are building an organization which will be the fastest way to fund people in need in Ukraine today – not weeks from now.” Others in the New York City hospitality industry also are joining the fight. Restaurateur Keith McNally donated last Tuesday’s revenue at Balthazar — $50,000, which was then doubled by VIP customer Scott Asen — for a total of $100,000 to UNICEF’s Protect Children in Ukraine charity, as Page Six reported. “P.S.,” McNally wrote on an Instagram post: “I hope this inspires other restaurants in New York and London to do the same. (If not all the night’s proceedings then perhaps a percentage.)” He said that on March 22, all of his restaurants in town – Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Morandi – will donate “every penny” they make to the UNICEF charity. McNally tells Side Dish: ‘I’m doing it because I feel it’s my duty. I’m not sure I could live with my conscience if I didn’t. I don’t care whether other restaurants do the same thing, but nonetheless I’m surprised that none of the restaurateurs in London and New York I’ve asked to join in have said yes. After all, in the end, we’re all connected.” Meanwhile, Kanfer also is getting money to the country – and not just through his restaurants. Kanfer launched the Michelin-plated Kissaki brand of omakase sushi in 2020, just before lockdown – and has grown it to five locations, from the Bowery and the Upper West Side to the Hamptons, Greenwich, CT and, soon, Miami. He also founded Big Drop, a digital advertising agency that has offices in Kharkiv, Ukraine – a hard-hit part of the country that’s taken heavy bombing from Russia. He said he spent around $60,000 to help get 58 of his 60 or so employees to safety in Poland and elsewhere. (One stayed to fight and another stayed to take care of elderly parents and is now trapped in Chuhuiv, which is occupied by the Russian army.) Then others reached out for help and Kanfer said he couldn’t say no. Soon, he was talking daily with other New Yorkers who also have family and friends in Ukraine. They’ve raised more than $250,000 of their own money and sent it to people they trust in Ukraine to deliver food and medicine to people in need. Then they launched America for Ukraine. “We find out who needs help and we get it to them directly through people on the ground, without waiting to ship. These people need help today – not weeks or a month from now,” Kanfer said. Other restaurateurs — shocked by Russia’s brutality and inspired by Ukrainians’ fighting spirit — are also raising money for Ukraine. On March 10, City Winery held a concert hosted by gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello and its frontman, Eugene Hutz, for, Doctors Without Borders and Come Back Alive, the largest group raising funds for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The concert — starring Patti Smith, Matisyahu and Suzanne Vega, among others — raised $130,000. “We felt honored to support the Ukrainian people by bringing together New Yorkers who wanted to show their solidarity and connection to the freedom loving good people being horrifically invaded by Russia,” said City Winery founder Michael Dorf. And McNally’s culinary nemesis Graydon Carter has also offered support at his Waverly Inn, while renowned Chef Jose Andres has been serving meals to refugees at the Polish border. On Monday, Terroir posted that it would also donate “every single penny of sales” to Andres’ World Central Kitchen. “Our hearts ache for the devastation being wrought upon Ukraine and its incredible citizens,” the noted wine bar posted on Instagram. In addition, the Gerber Group’s new club Daphne, at 50 Bowery, is creating a specialty cocktail to support women and girls in Ukraine, in partnership with Dewars – and a percentage of sales will be donated and matched by Dewars, to the Ukrainian Womens’ Foundation, Scott Gerber tells Side Dish. New Yorkers also continue to line up to support iconic Ukrainian diner Veselka in the East Village — where at least one Ukrainian staffer has left to fight for his homeland, according to reports. At America for Ukraine, Kanfer and the others who are working to stand up the new nonprofit are doing everything they can to help Ukrainians. They haven’t had time to raise money yet beyond what they’ve pitched in themselves. They are working on a GoFundMe page that will link to their site, Peter Zinkovetsky, a lawyer in New York, is the founder of America for Ukraine, the country where he was born. Kanfer said they’re building a database to gather information – like who has food and medicine and food and who needs it. “That’s phase two,” he said. Citymeals raises nearly $1 million In other news, we hear … that philanthropic diners joined Citymeals on Wheels Board Co-President Chef Daniel Boulud and celebrated guest chefs for the 24th Annual Sunday Supper at Restaurant DANIEL. The annual event raised over $960,000, 100% of which will be used to prepare and deliver more than 120,000 meals to New York City’s homebound elderly. Guest chefs included: Cosme Aguilar of Casa Enrique (New York), Renata Ameni of Crown Shy (New York), Curtis Duffy of Ever (Chicago), Angie Mar of Les Trois Chevaux (New York), and Patrick O’Connell of The Inn at Little Washington (Virginia).

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