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Using their culinary skills to help the less fortunate during the pandemic are Gordon Ramsey Steak chefs Larry Smith, front right; Kelly Wright, back, second from right; and Paul Hanley, back, far right; Also pictured: South Philly Barbacoa owners Christina Martinez, left, and Ben Miller, front left; and an unidentified volunteer.

Three chefs from Gordon Ramsay Steak in Harrah’s Atlantic City are finding some rewarding ways to use their downtime while the casinos are closed.

Executive chef Larry Smith, of Brigantine, and his two sous chefs, Paul Hanley, of Ventnor, and Kelly Wright, of Egg Harbor City, go to Philadelphia every week — sometimes twice a week — to prepare meals for the less fortunate, and have been doing so for more than two months.

Every Monday, Smith picks up his two coworkers and heads to South Philly Barbacoa on 9th Street, where owners Christina Martinez and Ben Miller donate their space to assist The World Central Kitchen Relief Effort, acclaimed chef Jose Andres’ mission to fight hunger and poverty.

While the funds raised by The World Central Kitchen Relief Effort cover the cost of the food, all of the labor is donated as Martinez and Miller not only use South Philly Barbacoa but their other restaurant, Casa Mexico, as well as a space they use for a prep kitchen, to assist with the effort.

Smith, along with his sous chefs and other volunteers, create culturally diverse, nutritional meals with locally sourced ingredients for about 200 to 250 people each day.

They like to be creative. One day, they might make chicken tika masala with basmati rice and Naan bread; another day, they might make fish cakes with bluefish and salmon served with couscous and kale.

“It makes you feel good to help, but it’s also fun to be creative and use the ingredients that you are given,” Smith said. “We try to present restaurant level food that you would get if you came to our restaurants as customers. When you work with what you have, you end up doing things you wouldn’t normally necessarily do, and then it comes out awesome. That’s what being a chef is all about.”

Smith said their efforts aid a variety of organizations.

“We make meals for about three or four organizations every week,” Smith said. “It could be a church needs 30 meals, an elderly home for the Asian community may need 50, homeless shelters need some … all people in need. The great thing is how some people who are not part of the program may hear about us being there and they come up and ask for a meal. So we give them out to some of the neighborhood people who need it, too.”

Martinez and Miller hope to continue helping the less fortunate even after the COVID-19 crisis, using their prep space to have chefs such as Smith come in to volunteer.

“We would definitely love to see this continue, and we will keep helping,” Smith said. “It would really be great to keep this thing going. It is doing such great things to help people. I know we love to go in there and donate our time and do the right thing.”

If you would like to help the World Central Kitchen mission, go to WCK.org.

More love from Caesars

Caesars Entertainment has not been quiet since the pandemic, offering services and donations despite having temporarily closed all of its properties.

Caesars Cares, an assistance fund established to support the company’s team members across the country who suffer unanticipated hardships such as losing employment or becoming ill during the pandemic, has helped countless people.

Billionaire Carl C. Icahn, Caesars’ top shareholder, made a grant of $350,000 to Caesars Cares, which has been matched by donations from many of the company’s business partners for a total of $700,000. Donors include Gordon Ramsay, Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay, as well as Nobu Restaurant, Old Homestead and Rao’s. Entertainment partner donors include Criss Angel, Jeff Dunham, Mat Franco, Jimmy Kimmel, Wayne Newton, Penn & Teller, Piff the Magic Dragon, Jerry Seinfeld and Donny Osmond. Many others, including Ticketmaster, have also contributed.

“Caesars Cares will provide an additional financial bridge to team members experiencing unexpected setbacks as we work towards resuming operations and restoring normal business conditions. Generous donations from our business partners reflect the depth of Caesars’ caring culture,” Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio said. “Additionally, since the beginning of this public health emergency, Caesars Foundation has shifted its focus to support our communities by helping 20 charitable organizations across the country fighting COVID-19.”

While donations have been made throughout the country, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Southern Branch, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey have been helped locally.

In addition to financial donations, Caesars donated hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to local food banks as well as cleaning supplies and thousands of personal protective equipment items to first responders and medical facilities battling COVID-19. It also recently contributed cots and hundreds of bed linens, pillows and hygiene kits to various homeless shelters and care facilities.

To make a tax-deductible gift to the Caesars Cares fund or for more information, go to Caesars.com/Cares

Law firm shows spirit

If you drive by the law office of Cooper Levenson on Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic city, make sure you check out the parking lot office’s transformation from a purely functional building to a “Rainbow Room.”

Artists Leah Morgan and Christian Correa are responsible for the urban artwork as part of the Atlantic City Arts Foundatin’s flagship 48 Blocks AC mural and art campaign throughout the city.

“Leah and Christian are incredibly talented artists. We are thrilled to have their work transform our ‘little blue building’ into our very own ‘Rainbow Room,’” said Chief Operating Officer Kenneth J. Calemmo, Jr.. “It is a happy and hopeful reminder of the rainbow we are all looking forward to seeing at the end of the pandemic.”

JFS thankful for grant

Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties has been selected to receive a $60,000 grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. The grant earmarks $40,000 for JFS’ Wellness Network and $20,000 for the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

“The generous Wellness Network grant will assure that our programs and events, specifically focused on the health of individuals with mental illness, will continue seamlessly for residents throughout the county, especially during this unprecedented time,” said JFS Chief Executive Officer Andrea Steinberg.

For years, the Wellness Network has provided a lifeline for more than 500 Atlantic County residents who have one or more chronic conditions and experience barriers to care. The Wellness Network encourages individuals to identify healthier personal goals, create care plans and adopt self-management practices.

While still providing its dozens of programs, including Wellness Network, since March, JFS has seen a 35% increase in the Food Pantry use and more than 65% increase in Kosher Meals on Wheels program. In addition, the JFS Shop at Home program grew by more than 200 percent. This grant, along with other donations made throughout the pandemic, will ensure continued services.

Go to JFSAtlantic.org.

Follow Scott Cronick on Twitter @ACPressCronick

Director of Entertainment Operations

With more than 20 years at The Press, I've served in positions including sports copy editor, reporter, At the Shore Editor, features writer and news desk editor. Now, I oversee both At The Shore and ACWeekly’s editorial and business operations.

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