It seems for Dallas’ restaurants, when someone in the industry needs help, others rally around them. We just saw this for Josh Bonee last month. Now, chefs are raising money and working to support chef Reyna Duong.
A week ago, the chef of Sandwich Hag in the Cedars was taken to an emergency room for severe abdominal pain. After a CT scan, a transfer to Baylor and emergency surgery, doctors discovered she had a perforated intestine. An eruption filled her cavity with air and debris.
She spent a week in the hospital and is now at home to recover. While she does, her team is running things at Sandwich Hag, and Dallas chefs are working to keep things workable for her.
One of those is chef Anastacia Quinones-Pittman, who started a GoFundMe page Thursday, with a goal of $15,000 to help Duong pay medical bills.
“It’s tough enough as it is to be a business owner in Dallas. And then you’re balancing family, you’re balancing your career, your employees, your customers. So when something like this happens, you don’t really want it to get serious. You’re hoping it’s nothing,” Quinones-Pittman says. “What happened to her is crazy, it’s drastic. It’s expensive more than anything. A lot of us aren't fortunate enough to have insurance.”
Quinones-Pittman, who’s the chef at Jose on West Lovers Lane, started the fundraising page, then quickly started hearing from other chefs to possibly put together an event to help support the chef who’s been there — not only to serve us the best banh mi sandwiches in town — but to serve and be a voice in the community.
“I had heard about her, and I had eaten her food before, but we didn’t really get close until after I started working at Cedars (Social), and she’s just really supportive of her community,” Quinones-Pittman says. “She’s another chef to look up to for her work ethic and her putting very, not taboo issues, but issues we don’t really talk about to the forefront. It takes a lot of guts to do that, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind and talk about things that are kind of uncomfortable.”
Duong is an advocate for businesses employing people with all abilities. When the paid sick ordinance came into effect in the city of Dallas recently, she spoke to the issue with the intention of greatly supporting her staff.
“She’s literally the first one in line to help when someone needs help,” Quinones-Pittman says.
That makes sense for why Duong says accepting help is uncharted territory for her.
“Having our community voluntarily come together in support is so overwhelmingly humbling and so heartfelt. I’m beyond grateful,” she says. “Our industry is so strong, generous and resilient, and continues to show me why it’s worth getting up every day to do what we do. I can’t thank AQ and Heard That Foundation enough for immediately reaching out and rallying everyone in support.”
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Will Salisbury, sous chef at Bullion downtown, is also the president of the board of directors for Heard That Foundation, an organization that supports hospitality workers in times of crisis.
“Reyna has been super supportive of Heard That from the beginning. She hosted us at one of her last pop-ups at Sandwich Hag as we’re trying to get our feet off the ground and get the nonprofit going,” he says. “So when we found out Reyna’s condition and what she’s going through, our first thought was that we have to be there, we have to be doing everything that we can to help as much as we can right now.”
Salisbury says local chefs are working with Heard That Foundation for an event benefiting Duong, which is looking to be in late September. Until then, they’re directing people to the GoFundMe page to help address any financial burdens.
“I want to do anything for her. She’s a good person,” Quinones-Pittman says. "We have to look out for each other, and that's what we do in Dallas. We rally around each other: whether it's cooking for each other or picking up shifts at each other's restaurants. Whatever we can do, we do."