In these difficult times, we’re all facing some challenging situations for ourselves, our loved ones, and society as a whole. In light of these challenges, Bryan Mendiola from The Carvery Sandwich Shop in South Surrey has decided to issue a little challenge of his own. Here’s what he had to say about it:
Matt (Surrey Eats) – Hi Bryan, thanks for (virtually) sitting down with us for this interview. First off can you tell us a little about yourself and your restaurant?
Bryan Mendiola (The Carvery) – My family and I live in South Surrey/White Rock area and I am a Red Seal Chef by trade. I opened up The Carvery Sandwich Shop in February 2016. Even though I have worked at all the different aspects of the restaurant industry from fine dining to casual dining to catering, it was always comfort food that I enjoy making. These are the people I like to cook for. I was never really into the fancy names and wines but more into smoking meats, creating epic meals leaning towards comfort food. I find the conversation with the people who appreciate this was more my style. I apply everything I learned from fine dining all the way to cooking pub food. I get to play more. The rules are a lot less restrictive than cooking traditional French cuisine where you can get highly criticized for doing something outside the norm. This is how The Carvery Sandwich Shop was born.
SE – What led up to the difficult decision to shutter The Carvery completely? Do you hope to reopen in the future?
BM – We decided to close not due to lack of business, which made my decision even tougher – it was actually the opposite of that. We were still very busy but the environment and the news was changing so quickly that it was almost hourly. Sometimes we’d think, “Hey we are okay”, then a few hours later, “Man we should shut her down for everyone’s safety.” We were following all the protocols very closely as they came out and they were changing often and fast. We went from having our record breaking day in 4 years of operation, to take out only, to closing it down completely, all in a span of 7 days. We did it to be socially responsible. It was not an easy decision and my family and staff were all involved in the decision making. We respect those who stay open as they have their own reasons for doing so. We – as a business being still busy – wanted to stay open, but as a member of this community I wanted to put them first. I wanted the safety of myself, my family, my staff and our customers to be our main reason for our decision. After considering every potential solution we all decided it was best to close down and wait for the changes to happen. It is a huge risk on our part but worth taking for the sake of everyone. Our goal is obviously to re-open as soon as it is safe to do so. The scary part is we have no answer when that can be. We will just have to trust the experts at this time.
SE – So what is the Carvery Restaurant Challenge? (we’ll let Bryan’s Facebook video speak for itself here)
SE – What led to the formulation of this idea to help local restaurants and healthcare workers at the same time?
BM – I always believe that when things are down, this is when you have to do your best. Believe me things are way down. So I needed to do something. I am the type that can’t sit still. I have to be busy or my brain will drive myself crazy. We closed last Sunday and by Monday I was liquidating my perishables. Thanks to all my friends and clients they were all flying off the shelf and that’s when it hit me. I saved some ingredients to make some soup and bread for our healthcare workers after hearing the news that many of them don’t have the time to do groceries, let alone make their lunches. Also I heard that due to the danger of contamination their cafeteria, lunch rooms, microwaves, and fridges were all temporarily taken away for precautionary reason. So I decided to contact Peace Arch Hospital to donate lunches. As I found out it isn’t that easy. There has to be some standards met. You can’t just go and drop off. It has to be arranged by a coordinator and has to come from a licensed commercial kitchen for obvious reason of safety. I was able to get a hold of them by posting on Facebook and by Tuesday morning I made the video that went viral (see above – SE). I knew my donation would be a one time thing as I am closed down so I was thinking, “How can I maximize this and do more?” Originally I didn’t want any exposure and to fly under the radar but after giving it much thought I figured what if I use this to challenge other restaurateurs that are able to do the same. I was hoping 1 or 2 more would see this and do the same. On Wednesday I made the soups, delivered it at noon and another at 10pm for the late shift. I posted the video on Tuesday and by Wednesday at around 4:30pm i was being interviewed by Global news. That is how quickly it spread.
SE – What’s the response been like so far from the business community and the frontline workers?
BM – The reaction was very unexpected. Pepperoni Cafe, Kin Thai, Dream Orthodontics, Cotto Al Mare, Hillcrest Bakery, Everbean Cafe, Chutney’s South Surrey, Sheila’s Catering, Taco Delmar Coquitlam and New West, Quizno’s Richmond, Titanium Auto Group, Jessica Alfajores Pastries, Sabrina’s Cucina, Servcomm Communications, Training Day Cafe, and Boss Limousines; and more are still coming in now. We also had many people wanting to donate money but I didn’t have a game plan for that as I was consumed by coordinating the vendors with the hospitals. It takes a lot of time to get this coordinated and also post the social media so that these awesome businesses get the recognition they deserve. Literally all I have done more than 8 hours a day is speak with people organizing the donations. At 1 AM on Thursday I got tired of turning down all the money waiting to be donated, as it would be unfair for me to do so knowing the healthcare workers can use it. So I decided to start a Go Fund Me. I went to bed around 3am and when I woke up the $2000 goal was already surpassed. I decided to up the goal to $4000 as many people were still wanting to donate. As I write this we are currently sitting at $5100.
SE – What hospitals are you currently serving and do you have any plans to expand the program?
BM – Peace Arch, Surrey Memorial, Delta, Langley, Eagle Ridge, Royal Columbian, BC Childrens, Abby. Some have already received it, some are scheduled to. In the 4 days since I posted the challenge we will be able to provide over 1500 lunches to our local hospitals. The love is still spreading as now others are following suit in Vancouver, Burnaby, and other parts of BC. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be living in this community and in BC. We truly are amazing if we all help each other. I can’t wait to see just how big this grows. Please support your local businesses because we will need all the help we can get.
SE – What methods are in place to lower any risk of coronavirus transmission when preparing, picking up, and delivering the food?
BM – I have been able to communicate directly to the vendors and hospital coordinators. We set a time and location for drop off. They come out to the vehicle making sure social distancing is followed, take a quick picture and off they go. It is really easy from there. Very minimal interaction is required through the delivery process.
SE – Do you have any advice for fellow restaurant owners who are struggling to remain viable in these difficult and uncertain times?
BM – Do what is best for your business. Follow the rules to keep everyone safe. What is right for us might not be right for you. Let’s all work together. This is not about competition but about working together as an industry that needs to be on the same page. Communicate daily with your clientele through social media as this is your biggest tool right now. Help where you can and ask for help if you need it. This is not the time to stay silent. It’s the time to be present in the community so they know who you are.
SE – Thanks for your time Bryan and the great work you’re doing out there in the community. Keep it up! 👍👍
Find Bryan and The Carvery Sandwich Shop on Facebook to show some love, and all donations to the cause on Gofundme are appreciated. And of course if you order food from a restaurant, you can support one of the restaurants Bryan mentioned in the interview and help the cause that way.
When ordering from restaurants during the pandemic Surrey Eats recommends disinfecting food containers then washing hands for at least twenty seconds before eating, as well as any further steps necessary to comply with provincial and federal health guidelines. Stay safe folks!
UPDATE April 4, 2020
Bryan – As many of you already know or those who may not, The Carvery Sandwich Shop has started a program to raise funds to help feed our local hospitals. We are nearing the end of the money raised on our 1st GoFundMe fundraiser and now with the much needed help of Surrey Eats and Fraser Valley Eats we are relaunching this initiative.
The goal is to continue supporting our community by providing lunches for our Healthcare workers in our own community and at the same time help the many local restaurants who are struggling to stay afloat during these times. Your donations no matter what amount will help both the restaurant businesses and our Healthcare workers at the same time. Please share this to as many people as you can and if you can give please do but if you can’t please share.
Chef Bryan Mendiola
The Carvery Sandwich Shop
PLEASE SHARE EVERYONE!