As the city of Nashville joins together to recover from the powerful punch of an evening of vicious storms and tornadoes that struck Middle Tennessee early in the morning of Tuesday, March 3, the city’s food and beverage community has been thrust to the forefront both in terms of significant damage and taking an important role in rebuilding the soul of the affected neighborhoods.
Among the neighborhood favorite restaurants that received significant damage are Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish, Boombozz Pizza, Burger Up, Clean Juice and Soda Parlor in East Nashville as well as Germantown eateries Geist and Red Bicycle. Many other restaurants also closed due to damage or power outages, but anticipate opening sooner rather than later.
North Nashville also suffered significant damage, but mainly to residential sections of the neighborhood, so most of the restaurants in the area should reopen as soon as power is restored and clean-up is complete. Unfortunately, several key food and drink wholesale distributors were also affected by the storm, making it even more problematic to restock kitchens and reopen operations.
The process of returning to some sense of normalcy has been quickly organized by local volunteers who have flocked to affected neighborhoods to assist with clearing fallen trees and helping to haul away debris from storm damage. The “Nashville Strong” spirit is palpable as neighbors help neighbors and strangers pitch in to assist anyone in need all over town, including as far away as Putnam County, the site of even more loss of life during the storm.
Despite having to deal with their own business difficulties, the Nashville culinary community has quickly stepped forward to feed fellow F&B workers who are at least temporarily out of work while restaurants are closed, displaced residents who may be without electricity or who have lost their homes completely, and volunteers who need fuel to keep working on their assistance efforts.
Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen was quick to mobilize assistance in Music City reaching out to local food purveyors to provide food, local chefs to cook it, and local food trucks and volunteers to deliver it to where it is needed. Notable leaders to this effort include BJ Lofback of Funk Seoul Brother who was an early nexus of the organizing efforts and US Foods who primed the pump by donating an entire truckload of food for chefs to come pick through to choose what they want to prepare to feed the masses. Restaurants and breweries have offered extra cold storage for donated food and also for their fellow restaurateurs seeking to save food from their own walk-ins until power is restored.
Another organization that is always quick to jump into the fray is Operation BBQ Relief. This group knows that they can feed a bunch of people in a hurry, and who doesn’t like barbecue? Almost as soon as the sun came up after the midnight storm, Operation BBQ Relief and local chefs and pitmasters were making plans to set up a kitchen near Nissan Stadium. Nashville stalwarts like Trey Cioccia and his teams from The Farm House and Black Rabbit, Carey Bringle and his Peg Leg Porker crew and Pat Martin’s partners from Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and Hugh Baby’s were quick to contribute manpower and resources to deliver hundreds of meals to the field from right of the edge of the storm zone. Within 18 hours of the storm, they were well underway cooking up 80 pork butts, sides for 2000 people and a literal ton of chicken donated by Springer Mountain Farms. In addition to helping out Operation BBQ relief, those same chefs were also undertaking other relief efforts of their own.
The tornadoes turned lives upside down in seconds, and the relief efforts also began with lightning speed. But the full recovery will be more of a marathon than a sprint. The spirit of Nashville gives every reason to be confident that the city will bounce back and that the restaurant community will be in the middle of the action.