The NYC Hospitality Alliance: Using the Power of F&B to Give Back to the Community
Andrew Rigie, executive director and founder of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, believes in the power of using food and beverage to help give back to the greater New York community at large. This six-year-old organization of 2,000 Big Apple restaurant, bars, and nightclubs takes the meaning of "hospitality" seriously through the numerous volunteer initiatives it has either been an integral part of or created. The Alliance advocates to reduce regulatory burdens and represents the industry in government and the media. It host training for members and curates events that foster networking and economic opportunity.
"There is something very personal about food, and feeding people is taking care of people," said Rigie, who grew up working in his family's fourth generation bakery and cafe in Queens, N.Y. "What better way to give back to neighborhoods all around the city than through food and food related-events."
This past July, the Alliance partnered on a food tasting event, Rigie said. This paired up 20 professional chefs with 20 individuals who have budding food businesses and who reside in public housing. This event was open to the public. The professional chefs served as mentors to the budding chefs, and they prepared the food together in teams. Rigie is on the advisory board for the Funds for Public Housing, which identified the chefs who were being mentored. Rigie hopes this will become an annual event.
In addition, members of the Alliance have been involved in speaking to students at the Food and Finance High School, which is a unique public culinary high school in New York City, said Rigie, who is on the advisory board for the school. The Alliance also sponsors an annual food tasting, in which students help chefs prepare food. And, the Alliance has helped bring in restaurants that take part in the school's internship program, which allows students to obtain first-hand experience working in professional kitchens.
About half of the school's seniors spend 200 hours working in some of the top restaurants and businesses in the city.
"These internships are a great experience for the students, and they really learn and grow so much," Rigie said. "Restaurant owners are local, and their patrons are local; they want to be involved with their neighborhoods and help others in the industry who are learning and starting out."
In addition to his work with the Alliance, Rigie is also overseeing and "curating" the 10 F&B panel discussions that will be taking place during HX: The Hotel Experience, which takes places this year Nov. 11-12 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Some of these topics include: going green, the influence of Instagram in F&B, technology and restaurants, and the future of restaurants in hotels.
"These panels will be examining and discussing topics of major importance to the hospitality industry today and in the future," Rigie noted.