On March 17, as many New Yorkers in the food and hospitality industry faced a grim future, Ryan Carroll lost his prestigious job at the Times Square Edition Hotel, where he worked under the likes …
On March 17, as many New Yorkers in the food and hospitality industry faced a grim future, Ryan Carroll lost his prestigious job at the Times Square Edition Hotel, where he worked under the likes of five-star Michelin chef Jonathan Frazier. Forced to let go his entire staff, he decided to pack up his New York City apartment and come out east. But with family and friends terrified of catching COVID-19, he was forced to sleep in hotels, friends’ homes, and even his car.
But one day, while making a delectable chicken parmigiana for his grandmother, who lives in Blue Point, he decided to do something bold and noble during the crisis and feed everyone’s grandmother. For free.
With only $800 to his name, Carroll spent $612.57 of it to buy to-go equipment, chicken, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce and mozzarella to make 100 orders of chicken parmigiana. Selling on social media for $15 sponsorships, he pledged to feed grandmothers for free and donated the additional money to Island Harvest.
Carroll assembled a team of 30 and utilized the closed-down kitchen at Bistro 25 East (where his grandmother lived around the corner) to continue to create charitable meals. “From there, we have fed over 17,000 people in need and over 20,000 meals to the public to raise money for people in need,” said Carroll of his newfound kitchen.
“The most terrifying thing was being responsible for the lives of 30 employees. I didn’t sleep a lot of nights worrying about the health of my staff,” said Carroll, who had created the position of director of sanitation in his organization to implement “extreme sanitation practices” to ensure the health of his staff.
Relying on local restaurants that were closing down to donate food and buying everything possible from Restaurant Depot, Carroll was able to get a sizeable freezer on Veterans Highway, where at one point they kept 120 cases of ravioli and 100 cases of pizza dough. The community was generous in monetary donations to purchase food, and Carroll’s Kitchen was able to offer everything from pastas, salads, Ora King salmon, to short ribs over mashed potato puree.
Converting to a fully-fledged 501(c)(3) was particularly challenging, given all the local business and government closures. Even a simple task of opening a business checking account proved to be difficult. “I would have to call the corporate bank system, wait two hours, then make an appointment and drive out to Queens to go through the paperwork with the bank,” said Carroll.
Giving credit to fellow Sayville High School alumna Jenna Hansche, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, Carroll said she and her parents (her mother runs a 501(c)(3) and her father is an attorney) were the “reason we were able to become a nonprofit,” as they proved to be invaluable in guiding the process for him.
Going forward, Carroll’s Kitchen will be concentrating on feeding children and the elderly who are in need and are currently working with the No Kid Hungry Long Island campaign that focuses on high-risk, low-income children in areas such as Brentwood, Bellport, Shirley and Central Islip. “A lot of these families are undocumented and do not qualify for unemployment,” said Carroll of the even more pressing need for food donations for these Long Island residents.
Carroll is determined to change the food delivery system for low-income students, who rely on school lunches, and seniors, who are often physically unable to cook for themselves. “They end up buying cheap, nutrient-less foods in a time when they have extremely specific diets,” lamented Carroll of the current system.
“I started Carroll’s Kitchen Long Island for the love of my grandmother, and to feed her nutritional meals and help an elderly woman who cared for me her entire life... I personally bring her dinner every single day and make sure her fridge is full of fruits and vegetables,” said Carroll, who added, “I dedicate my ambition, drive, and entire movement to her; she is my inspiration. I love you, nan.” To make donations, please visit https://www.carrollskitchenli.org/.