Our Tomorrow: Meet the Seattle chef who’s cooking up community for BLM

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When our state started shutting down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of bartenders, cooks, and wait staff lost their jobs or saw a significant reduction in hours. For many of them, the loss went deeper than a paycheck — it reflected a loss of connection to their community.

Local chef Jude Watson saw a challenge and an opportunity when Black Lives Matter demonstrations began in Seattle last month. In the before-coronavirus era, industry folks would have come together to host a fundraiser for the cause. But the world we’re living in today called for an extra dose of creativity.

Jude, who met Max Goldstein while working at Stateside on Capitol Hill, turned to her former coworker to put an idea into action: CSA boxes filled with donated produce and chef-prepared goodies like salsa, hummus, and apricot jam. The first round of 50 boxes sold out in less than two days and raised $3,300 for BLM.

Want in on the next box? Stay tuned for an announcement on Instagram later this month or sign up for email updates here.

And if you’re eager to lend a hand to the project, Jude says they need bulk donations of fruits and veggies, bulk glass canning/bottling supplies, and drivers to help do pick-up and delivery for the second round of boxes in late July. Email her directly to find out more: [email protected]

In the meantime, check out our short Q&A with Jude to learn more about what inspired her to take action. (Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Where did the idea for Cooks for BLM come from?

Jude: In this moment — especially when we can’t be with other people in the same space — it just feels so important to still be involved in all the critical racial justice organizing that’s going on. And so I considered the resources I had access to.

(Max and I) have so many talented friends, especially in the fine dining community, and we wanted to leverage that community as a fundraiser for Black Lives Matter. At another time, we would have held a seven-course dinner or something, but right now a CSA box is really the way to still raise money and bring our community together.

food items arranged on table
Some of the items featured in the first CSA box. (đź“·: Max Goldstein)

The restaurant industry has been through a lot lately. How did you inspire other folks to step up and support you in this project?

Jude: When you’re working in a restaurant, you are all a family together. It’s such an intensely stressful job. You have all been to hell and back together, and you’re just so tightly connected to all the people that you work with.

This project gave us all a chance to feel some joy in what we’re doing and feel like we’re a part of our community. I think that’s why we immediately had so much buy in, especially from cooks. We’re used to working 60 or 70 hour weeks making food constantly. We’re not great at sitting at home, so this was an opportunity for people to just get back in the kitchen and feel useful.

What is it about the Black Lives Matter movement specifically that inspired you to take action?

Jude: As a white person — even as a white person in a blue-collar job — it’s really important to reflect on how I’ve benefited from intergenerational wealth. My grandma, who worked on a rural farm with her family, benefited from a subsidy from the New Deal, and that wasn’t something that would have been available to most Black-owned farms at that time.

Even when we feel like we don’t have access to a ton of money or we’re not making a ton of money, white people still have benefited from the economics of racial injustice. That’s why funding movements led by people of color is essential. Just providing money for these movements is one of the main ways that we can support them.

Very little grant funding or government funding goes to Black-led organizations, so it’s even more crucial for people to fundraise for themselves or give individual donations to those places.

By Caitlin Moran
Caitlin writes newsletters and stories for The Evergrey. She's worked as a journalist in and around Seattle since 2010 and is a proud resident of Capitol Hill's Summit Slope neighborhood.