Dozens of guests looked forward to a three-course meal at Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh last Sunday, while three chefs were busy in its kitchen, preparing the food for what was dubbed the Feed the Frontline Fundraiser Dinner.
The chefs all belong to the Bellmore-based nonprofit Carroll’s Kitchen, which kicked off the day by preparing and delivering 1,500 meals to employees at Nassau University Medical Center and Stony Brook University Hospital. The effort was made possible by ticket sales for the dinner at the Wantagh venue.
The dinner was the “icing on the cake,” said Ryan Carroll, the owner of Carroll’s Kitchen and one of the chefs, and despite their busy morning, the three were just as full of energy as they cooked that evening.
As he prepared some of the dishes, Carroll spoke with the Herald about the nonprofit’s mission and its partnership with Mulcahy’s. “I had a really good job, but when the pandemic hit I had to fire my whole staff and leave,” he said as he sprinkled salt on salmon.
Last March, as Covid-19 spread across the country, Carroll, 27, of Sayville, lost his job as a sous chef at John Fraser’s 701West in the Times Square Edition hotel. He had $800 to his name, he said, and no real career plan. He just knew he had to do something.
Carroll, who has been in the restaurant business since he was 14, started his own online food business with the policy “Grandmas eat free.” The business took off when he solicited chefs on Instagram. “The floodgates opened,” he said, because so many in the restaurant industry were out of work and looking for opportunities.
As he found his footing with the new business, Carroll recounted, he wanted to do more to help everyone on Long Island who was struggling in the pandemic — especially elderly people who lived on their own and couldn’t go shopping.
“I didn’t know anything about nonprofit work,” he acknowledged, explaining that he read some books on the topic, watched documentaries and asking questions of representatives of Island Harvest and Long Island Cares. “But the best way to learn was to immerse myself in it,” he said. Over the course of nine months, Carroll’s Kitchen operated out of a small restaurant in Blue Point and distributed roughly 30,000 meals across Long Island.
Then, in December, it launched a new kitchen in a half-hidden but spacious location at the end of Charles Court, off Newbridge Road in Bellmore. Carroll’s Kitchen wasted no time getting adjusted and, on its first day, gave out roughly 3,000 meals to area families.
The nonprofit’s goal is to provide elderly residents and families in need with free, delivered meals. Families or those with elderly neighbors can text Carroll a recipient’s address at (631) 206-4235. Carroll says the organization is similar to Meals on Wheels, but offers gourmet food that Manhattan diners would pay top dollar for.
Carroll’s Kitchen teamed up with Mulcahy’s after Tim Murray, 28, whose father, John, owns the Wantagh venue, read an article about the kitchen and contacted Ryan to ask if Mulcahy’s could help. The result was Feed the Frontline, which was also Carroll’s first dine-in event.
In addition to supporting the kitchen and its efforts, half of the proceeds from the dinner went to a Covid-19 relief fund for small businesses launched by media group Barstool Sports.
Working alongside Carroll on Sunday at Mulcahy’s were Sam Faicco, 21, of Oakdale, and Alex Murray, 24, of Sayville. Faicco also lost her restaurant job in the pandemic, and reached out when she saw Carroll’s post on Instagram looking for chefs.
Murray is a Sayville High School graduate and a pastry chef. While she had no background in nonprofit work, she said she found meaning in working at Carroll’s Kitchen. “It’s great to know I’m giving back and helping others,” she said. “And it’s definitely different than any other work I’ve done before.”
The dinner at Mulcahy’s wrapped up a busy February for Carroll’s Kitchen, but the momentum will continue this month. On Sunday, it will team up with St. Francis Episcopal Church, in North Bellmore, to feed 500 food-insecure people in the community and assemble and donate five tons of dry pantry food.
Baby back ribs with coleslaw, cornbread and mac ’n’ cheese — prepared in coordination with barbecue experts from the Massapequa Pitmasters Facebook group — will also be offered for $20 online, with the proceeds helping to support the initiative. The event will kick off at 1 p.m.
Carroll’s Kitchen also offers a full menu for those interested in purchasing dishes and helping to support donation efforts. Carroll’s Cocktails — mixed drinks that accompany the meals — are a new addition to the offerings.
Menu items change frequently. Check Carroll’s Kitchen’s website, Instagram (@carrolskitchen_li) or Facebook pages for updates.