Restaurants in New York are raising money for Ukraine

Restaurants across the city are doing their part to raise money for the victims in Ukraine. Ukrainian-born Garry Kanfer is one of them: the owner of the Kissaki mini-empire of omakase restaurants has co-founded a new nonprofit to help raise money for the war-torn country and its people.

“We’re dedicated to finding projects directly,” Kanfer said of America for Ukraine, his new nonprofit organization. “We don’t finance middlemen. We have no expenses. We are building an organization that will be the fastest way to fund people in need in Ukraine today — not weeks.”

Others in New York’s hospitality industry are also joining the fight.

Restaurateur Keith McNally donated last Tuesday’s proceeds at the Balthazar – $50,000, which was then matched by VIP client Scott Asen – to total $100,000 to UNICEF’s Protect Children in Ukraine charity, Page Six reported.

“PS,” McNally wrote in an Instagram post, “I hope this inspires other restaurants in New York and London to do the same. (If not all the events of the night, then perhaps a percentage.)”

He said all of his restaurants in town — Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Morandi — will be donating “every penny” they earn to the charity UNICEF on March 22.

Ukrainian born Garry Kanfer
Ukrainian-born Garry Kanfer has started a new charity to help people in the country affected by the war.

McNally tells Side Dish, “I do it because I feel it is my duty. I’m not sure I could live with my conscience if I didn’t. I don’t care if other restaurants do the same, but I’m still surprised that none of the restaurateurs in London and New York I asked to participate said yes. After all, we are all connected.”

Meanwhile, Kanfer is also bringing money into the country – and not just through its restaurants. Kanfer launched the Michelin-starred Kissaki brand of omakase sushi in 2020, just before lockdown – and has expanded it to five locations, from the Bowery and Upper West Side to the Hamptons, Greenwich, CT and soon Miami. He also founded Big Drop, a digital advertising agency with offices in Kharkiv, Ukraine — a hard-hit part of the country that has suffered heavy bombing from Ukraine.

He said he spent around $60,000 to get 58 of his approximately 60 employees in Poland and elsewhere to safety. (One stayed to fight and another to look after elderly parents and is now trapped in Chuhuiv, occupied by the Russian army.)

Ukrainians accepting bags of goods from America for Ukraine, a new non-profit organization
In Ukraine, people – like these people there, getting bags of essentials – have been helped by a new non-profit organization, America for Ukraine.
America for Ukraine
People in Ukraine gather to get relief supplies
People in Ukraine are rallying to get groceries and other items from Garry Kanfer, the New York restaurant owner who was born in the country and has started a new nonprofit called America for Ukraine
America for Ukraine

Then others asked for help and Kanfer said he couldn’t say no. He soon spoke daily to other New Yorkers who also have family and friends in Ukraine. They have raised more than $250,000 of their own money and sent it to people in Ukraine they trust to deliver food and medicine to those in need. Then they launched America for Ukraine.

“We find out who needs help and we get it to them directly through the people on the ground without having to wait for it to be shipped. These people need help today – not in weeks or months,” said Kanfer.

Other restaurateurs – shocked by Russia’s brutality and inspired by Ukrainians’ fighting spirit – are also raising money for Ukraine.

On March 10, City Winery hosted a concert performed by gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello and their frontman Eugene Hutz for, Doctors Without Borders and Come Back Alive, the largest group raising funds for Ukraine’s armed forces , was held. The concert – which also featured Patti Smith, Matisyahu and Suzanne Vega – brought in $130,000.

City winery concert
A concert at New York’s City Winery featuring punk band Gogol Bordello and their frontman Eugene Hutz along with Patti Smith, Matisyahu and Suzanne Vega raised $130,000 for the Ukrainian cause.
Getty Images/Taylor Hill

“We were honored to support the people of Ukraine by bringing together New Yorkers who wanted to show their solidarity and connection with the freedom-loving good people who have been horribly invaded by Russia,” said City Winery founder Michael Dorf.

And McNally’s culinary nemesis Graydon Carter also offered support at his Waverly Innwhile the renowned chef was Jose Andres food for refugees on the Polish border. On Monday, Terroir announced it would also donate “every penny of sales” to Andres’ World Central Kitchen. “Our heart aches for the devastation being caused to Ukraine and its incredible citizens,” the well-known wine bar posted on Instagram.

Additionally, Gerber Group’s new club, Daphne, in 50 Bowery, is partnering with Dewars to create a specialty cocktail to support women and girls in Ukraine – and a percentage of sales will be donated and matched by Dewars to the Ukraine Women’s Association. Foundation, Scott Gerber tells Side Dish.

New Yorkers also continue to line up to support the legendary Ukrainian diner Veselka in the East Village – where at least one Ukrainian employee has reportedly left to fight for his homeland.

Kissaki restaurant in NYC
The Kissaki mini-empire of omakase-centric restaurants thrived during the pandemic; its owner, who is from Ukraine, has started a new non-profit organization to help the people there directly.

At America for Ukraine, Kanfer and his co-founders do everything they can to help Ukrainians. They haven’t had time to raise money beyond what they’ve raised themselves. They are working on a GoFundMe page that will link to their website.

Kanfer and others are building a database to collect information – like who has food and medicine and food and who needs it. “This is phase two,” he said.

Citymeals raises nearly $1 million

In other news, we hear…that philanthropic guests have joined City Meals on Wheels Board Co-President Executive Chef Daniel Boulud and acclaimed guest chefs for the 24th Annual Sunday Dinner 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 for the elderly in New York City.

Guest chefs included: Cosme Aguilar from Casa Enrique (New York), Renata Ameni from Crown Shy (New York), Curtis Duffy from Ever (Chicago), Angie Mar from Les Trois Chevaux (New York) and Patrick O’Connell from The Inn in Little Washington (Virginia). Restaurants in New York are raising money for Ukraine


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