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Hospitality Industry Strives to Feed Its Own

Written By Scott Joseph On April 24, 2020

Titos Ulmer Lamb

Thanks to a donation by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a local charity headed by restaurateur and bar owner Todd Ulmer is offering free meals to displaced hospitality workers, 100 meals on Sunday, April 26, and another 100 next Friday.

And Ulmer is looking to feed more.

Members of the Central Florida culinary and hospitality community has a long history of helping each other out. That used to mean loaning some ingredients to a neighboring restaurant that’s short on something for the evening’s service or cooking side by side at a gala dinner, helping to make each other’s dish look and taste great.

Now they’re trying to offer a meal to restaurant and bar workers who suddenly found themselves out of work and unable to get benefits through Florida’s intentionally insufficient system.

Since Ulmer has been involved in a number of downtown Orlando bars, including Stardust Lounge and Aku Aku Tiki Bar, a representative from Tito’s reached out to him and said the company would like to donate $1500 to Ulmer’s charity, the Richard Ulmer Fund, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit named for his father.

Ulmer got with Jason Lambert, a former partner who now owns the Hammered Lamb restaurant and bar in the Ivanhoe District, and asked him how many meals he could serve for $750 and not lose money. “The goal is not only to feed but [also] to support the closed down restaurants,” Ulmer said. He noted that even the restaurants that are still open for takeout and delivery are working with a skeleton crew – most of their own staff members on furlough – and barely breaking even. “We don’t expect restaurants to be donating food at this time.”

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The first 100 meals will be offered for pickup at the Hammered Lamb between noon and 3 p.m. Hospitality workers who would like a meal should send a message via the Richard Ulmer Fund Facebook page with the name for their employer, current or former, their menu choice and the time they’d like to pick up. Recognizing that many hospitality workers may have a significant other, an additional item is allowed. It is on a first come, first served basis. (See below for the menu.)

A second round of meals will be offered on Friday, May 1, at World of Beer at Lake Eola. Time and menu to be announced, but hospitality workers who did not make Sunday’s cut can request a meal by leaving a message at the same Facebook link.

And Ulmer would like to see more donations. “What would be great is if people would do this on their own,” he said, “just go to your favorite restaurant and say ‘I’d like to feed a hundred people, what would that cost?’”

But Ulmer also says contributions may be made through his charity’s GoFundMe page, which may allow the donations to be tax deductible.

Ulmer said the fund is named for his father because when he was a kid, his parents had him and his brother wrap their own Christmas toys to give away to needy kids, along with food and Christmas trees and other holiday items. The fund is still most active around the holidays, but Ulmer said that for every $750 coming in during the shutdown, another 100 meals will be arranged.

Contributions can be made at this link.

Here’s the menu for Sunday’s dinner:

Hammered takeout

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