BY TAMARA PALMER
San Francisco’s Media Noche offers a different guest Chef’s Cubano each month and donates 10% of the in-house sales to a different charitable cause each month, a business model that should be replicated in restaurants everywhere.
I’ve been watching this initiative with interest since it began in May 2018 with an Al Pastor Papi Chef’s Cubano by my friend Miguel Escobedo, who was just about to launch his food truck. The Chef’s Cubano has since become a place to introduce new restaurants like Square Pie Guys or pop-ups like Nicole Marin’s Hermanita to San Francisco before their doors have opened.
“I learned very quickly to rein in the costs,” explained Media Noche chef Casey Rebecca Nunes. “Putting a cap on how much each unit costs helps out the restaurant but can also inspire some creativity, if someone's ideal ingredient isn't within a reasonable price range. Boundaries don't mean boring! Have a game plan and schedule going into it and stick by that as much as possible.”
Media Noche has supported some incredibly important causes with the program.
“Something I love about this series is being able to donate to so many diverse causes that are important to my friends and colleagues,” Nunes said. “A few notable ones: La Cocina, Quentin Cooks (the cooking program at San Quentin Prison), The Women's Building, La Casa De Las Madres, and Hui Aloha 'Aina Momona (reinstating the poi bowl/taro on the dinner table in Hawai'i through education and hands-on practice).”
The unofficial Chef’s Cubano hall of fame is stocked full of good ideas.
“According to the numbers, the top three [sellers] are 4505 BBQ Meats & Burgers (BBQ brisket), Al Pastor Papi (braised al pastor) and Minnie Bell's Soul Movement (Southern fried chicken), but I believe that there have been some fan favorites that don't necessarily reflect in the sales (e.g., Chef Tu David Phu's E. 14 Banh Mi, Chef Reem Assil's La Palestina, Chef Chris Yang's Ono Kine Cubano, and my sous chefs Angelica & Genaro's El Pambazo). People will randomly ask about past sandwiches all the time and it's a nice feeling to know that we've made some food memories for them.”
Here’s hoping that more places will follow suit!