Food

'There is a healing quality to food': Las Vegas chefs feed victims, first responders

Pizzas were piled high at police stations, sandwiches showed up at hospitals and plates of barbecue and tacos were dispersed among first responders on Monday as Las Vegas chefs immediately came together to feed the victims, families and medical staffers following Sunday night's deadly shooting.

"The outpouring has been instantaneous and intense," Eric Gladstone, a local publicist who has been helping coordinate donation efforts, told TODAY Food. "Las Vegas has this reputation of a being cold-hearted town — an 'all-for-me' town.

"This shows that's just not true. It's a really caring community."

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Amid Las Vegas tragedy, stories of helpers and heroes emerge

Play Video - 3:28

Amid Las Vegas tragedy, stories of helpers and heroes emerge

Play Video - 3:28

Many chefs got to work feeding victims, their families, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, nurses and doctors, when hospitals, police stations and other community centers had to start turning down all the perishable foods yesterday, Gladstone and several restaurateurs said.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Las Vegas-based writer Jason Harris and Jolene Mannina, a local hospitality industry professional, chefs across the city are coordinating spaced-out deliveries among hospital and precinct shifts, in an effort to aid what may be a long recovery process for locals.

"For sure, there is a healing quality to food. It has the unique ability to bring everyone together—it transcends politics, everything," Gladstone added.

On Tuesday night, Ronnie Rainwater chef de cuisine from Emeril Lagasse's restaurant, Delmonico Steakhouse, made rounds at local police precincts with a food trailer stocked with Southern comfort favorites like fried chicken, red beans and rice, cornbread, pasta salad, fresh fruit. "I'm very much looking forward to expressing my gratitude [to the officers] face-to-face," he told TODAY Food.

"Our boss, chef Emeril, is such a part of helping communities in all markets, that it's in our blood to help out," he said. "We're here to take care of people."

Lagasse, who owns four restaurants in Las Vegas, thanked local responders Monday on Twitter.

Other famous chefs with kitchens in Las Vegas shared their support on social media, too.

"Quite honestly, we’re not the driving force behind this — the list of people is long," Rainwater said, remaining humble about professional chefs' efforts to help Las Vegas. "Our community is pretty amazing."

Branden Powers, managing partner of Evel Pie, a Las Vegas pizzeria, told TODAY Food that he has been taking calls from people all over the world, who are ordering pizza for first responders and victims.

"I asked my staff, 'How many dough balls do we have?' They said, 300 or 400. I said, 'Make 'em all 'til we run out,' " he told TODAY. "I just want to feed people, take care of them. The generosity of everybody is amazing — people are calling up and asking to anonymously donate $500 in pizzas."

Powers said the response from those on the receiving end of the free meals has been overwhelming.

"We had nurses break down crying ... they had been working 12 hours and hadn't had anything to eat," the pizzeria partner recalled, audibly tearing up over the phone.

"We’re so small in this whole thing — they are the ones are trying to save limbs, eyes, prevent paralysis, and help people who are teetering on life and death ... Whatever we can do, to make sure they are taking care of — we are going to bring some comfort to them the best we can."

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