When approached, as it should be – your position is very challenging, at times – almost impossible.  By design you are charged with defending the Constitution, protecting the American people from harm, creating and passing laws that support the Bill of Rights, keeping other branches of government in check, lifting up the economy, being a beacon of light for other countries seeking to maintain or create a democratic government, creating an environment for private business to be innovative and cutting edge, maintaining the infrastructure of an enormous country, and doing all of this as representatives of the people.  This job of representation was designed to be a public service, something that you choose to do for the betterment of the country – offering your expertise in an altruistic manner for a period of time.  This is hopefully done in a manner that will leave the country better off as a result of your involvement.  You are elected by the people to do just this, and they trust that you will live up to the pledge that demands it.  We know that it takes time to get comfortable and understand your role more fully; we know that a few years is not enough time, but we also know that representation was never meant to be a lifetime career that bends to your need to “keep the job” and hang on to the personal benefits that it provides.

All of this is a heavy responsibility – not for the faint at heart.  This should never be a position that sets aside what you know is right and what the people expect in favor of a political party’s inclination or the pressures from donors and lobbyists.  The expectation is that you will stand up to this pressure and choose what is right and appropriate over what special interest groups desire.  This is a position that should make it difficult for you to sleep at night, to take those long vacations, to set aside the need to read and research, to avoid challenging the norm and stand on that soapbox at times in defense of what is right for the people.  Sorry, this is what goes along with the position of representation – representation that holds on it’s shoulders the lives of American people, their livelihood, their families, and their potential to live the American dream.

These are incredibly challenging times, times that none of us could have imagined just a year ago.  We all know the issues: a 100 year pandemic, a crumbling economy, a threatened system of education, loss of millions of jobs, a planet crying out for help, our decaying international stature, runaway deficit spending, fairness and equality, and the demise of private entrepreneurship – such an enormous load.  This is the worst of times, not the best and as a result this is the most inappropriate time to relinquish your responsibility for partisanship behavior.  When times are toughest teamwork must rise to the top of everyone’s priority list.  The decisions to be made must always take precedent over party desires and special interest pressure.  You need to come together to resolve the critical issues of our time or we all will pay the price.  Your people, the ones who placed their trust in you with their vote, are counting on you and they are watching.  The world depends on you just as much as do the American people and they are watching as well, watching with bated breath. 

One issue that may seem to be just another to add to the pile is the health of the restaurant industry in our country.   To some, this industry may seem to be one that is far from critical.  After all, people can cook at home.  To some, restaurants will always be a luxury and not a necessity – something that is great to have, but not essential.  I would beg to differ, and so would the millions of Americans who either work in, or dine in those establishments that have been the backbone of our economy for generations (yes, the backbone).  Allow me to elaborate for your edification – first some hard facts:

According to the National Restaurant Association:

  • There are (were) over 1 million freestanding restaurants in the United States before the coronavirus was part of our vocabulary.
  • 15.6 million Americans are (were) employed by the restaurant industry and to so many who live in this country – working in a restaurant was their introduction to the workforce
  • 90% of restaurant managers started out as entry-level restaurant employees demonstrating the upward mobility from a job to a career and although I don’t have a numeric value for it – a high percentage of professional chefs got their start as a dishwasher
  • 80% of restaurant owners started as an entry-level restaurant employee demonstrating the magic of the American Dream to become an entrepreneur
  • 70% of American restaurants are single unit private entrepreneurships

Now on the qualitative side – the following list points to the societal importance of restaurants to the heart and soul of our country:

  • Throughout the last 150 years – restaurants have been that place where people gather to challenge each other, to celebrate, to nourish, and to reward.  We rely on restaurants to provide these opportunities and the environment that fosters these interactions.
  • As our country has clawed its way through disaster after disaster: two world wars, the Korean war, Vietnam, Desert Storm, The Afghanistan War, the Great Depression, numerous recessions, the horrors of 9-11, Polio and HIV, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters – it has been the American restaurant that showed the first signs of national recovery.  When these disasters occur – it has been the American restaurant Industry that came together to help with the first, most basic need – to feed those in need. 
  • When families seek to raise their children to be active members of society and learn to care for themselves while earning those first paychecks – they turn to restaurants to teach their sons and daughters some basic skills.
  • When the demands placed on families because both parents need to work, or in single parent homes where survival is the first call to arms – the ability to lean on restaurants for family meals has always been a comfort.
  • When neighborhoods that have been plagued by decades of neglect seek to renew and rebuild – it is oftentimes expected that a restaurant will be the first business to open and show signs of life and hope for that renewal.

I could go on and on, but the essential point is that restaurants are important to America, they represent all that we envision and work to reach: a paycheck, an opportunity to become an entrepreneur, a place of gathering and comfort, a place to celebrate and raise a glass, an a sign of life and vitality for a community. 

Right now restaurants are in need of understanding and help from Congress.  This is not an issue that can be put aside for a while and looked at in the future.  This is not a tomorrow issue – this is critical TODAY, in this very moment.  The pandemic and necessary restrictions on public places like restaurants in order to protect the lives of so many are something that restaurant owners, chefs, servers, and managers understand.  At the same time, this is not a normal situation that resulted from an operator’s ability to manage properly, this is far beyond our control and as a result we need help to weather the storm.  Some predict that as many as 50% of the private restaurants in America will close before this pandemic comes under control – some will reopen and new ones, undoubtedly will rise up, but millions of jobs, the centerpieces of many neighborhoods, the lifeblood of far too many communities, and a significant chunk of the American Dream stand to crumble.

This is not a time for Congress to bicker over politics, to take partisan sides, to try to slide in those special interest expenditures, or to go on vacation with the job left undone.  This is the time to act for the people and the country that put you in office to be a representative, to do what is right.  The restaurant industry needs help in providing a paycheck for their employees, loan deferrals, rent support, and long-term advisement on how to reinvent themselves.  This is what one would expect from the greatest nation in the world and from a country that promotes the American Dream as essential to its character.

To fail to do this will result in the destruction of an essential industry to the character of America.  WE CAN’T WAIT – TIME HAS RUN OUT.  Do what you were elected to do and do it TODAY.  We are all watching what you do next.


Harvest America Ventures, LLC

Restaurant Consulting

www.harvestamericacues.com  BLOG

5 responses to “A CHEF’S LETTER TO CONGRESS”

    1. Patrick Pukonesi Posta Avatar
      Patrick Pukonesi Posta

      I love the whole idea, this is of high essence and it motivates. In fact passion of being near such legends is growing in me day and night. thanks a lot.

  1. Well said!

  2. BRAVO!!!

  3. Earl R. Arrowood, Jr. ACF Chef Emeritus Avatar
    Earl R. Arrowood, Jr. ACF Chef Emeritus

    Thank you Chef. Appreciate your words and perspectives.

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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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