Mike Bancroft and Anne Kostroski of Sauce and Bread Kitchen in Edgewater were “blindsided and dumbfounded” by the coronavirus outbreak in Illinois that closed all dine-in restaurants and non-essential businesses.
The duo behind Sauce and Bread Kitchen — a restaurant combining Bancroft’s social enterprise Co-op Sauce and Kostroski’s bread and pastry business — said the coronavirus-related shutdowns “tanked” the wholesale side of their business. But they also saw a great need in their neighborhood.
“We realized that we’re not just an essential hub for food but also community right now,” Kostroski said. “That’s why we decided to keep going.”
They started by cooking free meals for restaurant workers and artists who found themselves out of work under the state’s stay-at-home order.
For Kostroski, who comes from the culinary and service industries, and Bancroft, an artist and former teaching artist, it was an easy decision to make and provide free meals.
“We understand what living check to check is like and how something as simple as preparing a meal can lead to stress,” Bancroft said. “Helping out with that is important to us because we can empathize.”
Friends, neighbors and regulars started donating money so Kostroski and Bancroft could make even more free meals. Within three weeks, the couple has given hundreds of soups, chili, pizzas and other healthy meals to people in need.
They’ve also prepared and delivered meals to the emergency department staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and plan to expand these efforts through partnerships with other businesses, Bancroft said.
“We’re honored to be able to be in business and take care of our staff and hope we can pay that forward,” he said.
The business has only a small number of employees, which has made it easier to roll out new policies on the fly as business restrictions have grown stricter during the pandemic, Bancroft said.
They’re continuing to pay all of their workers, even those who live too far to travel safely to work.
”The reason we’ve been able to stay open is, quite frankly, our staff and the people who have become our regulars,” Kostroski said. “We’re their beacon of normalcy in this crazy time.”