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A plate of various fruits: apple, peaches, grapes.
David Jimenez

13 Restaurants and Organizations Changing the Food Industry for the Better

Here are 13 restaurants and organizations who are putting equity on the plate in the restaurant industry. From worker-owned models of ownership to food distribution, these restaurants and organizations are bringing their visions of care and ethical practices to life.
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As Roy Choi explores in the second season of "Broken Bread," the restaurant industry's shortcomings in ethical labor, wage and business practices have never been more extreme. Restaurants have historically relied on the labor of people who are already systemically disadvantaged — BIPOC, immigrant, low-income — and are underpaid, overworked and churning on to meet incessant demand in the wake of a global pandemic. As Wolfgang Puck explains one of the episodes, skyrocketing costs of living against stagnant wages, a culture that normalizes "disposability" of workers and devaluation of goods and labor on various levels of the food production chain, are just some of the factors that contribute to the issues of the food industry today.

And still, the restaurant industry can be a major agent of change and set precedents among industries. Food is one of the greatest connectors of people, preservers of culture and sources of hope in feeding communities. In Los Angeles, some restaurateurs are stepping up to bring their visions of care and ethical practices to life. From transforming a humble storefront into a wide-reaching food bank, to setting up a food distribution system for undocumented workers or simply promising quality food and fair wages to their employees, here are some organizations and restaurants that are doing the work to change the status quo.

Southern California

No Us Without You LA

A group of volunteers at No Us Without U stand for a group photo along a curb in Los Angeles. Some of the volunteers are sitting on plastic produce crates while others stand behind them with their arms crossed or at their side. Behind the group of volunteers is a collapsable outdoor tent where there are stacks of plastic produce crates and a plastic table for distributing food. Parked along the curb is a small moving truck with graffiti on the back.
A group of volunteers at No Us Without U stand for a group photo along a curb in Los Angeles. Some of the volunteers are sitting on plastic produce crates while others stand behind them with their arms crossed or at their side. Behind the group of volunteers is a collapsable outdoor tent where there are stacks of plastic produce crates and a plastic table for distributing food. Parked along the curb is a small moving truck with graffiti on the back.
1/3 Through their network of volunteers, No Us Without U distributes almost 120,000 pounds of food a week. | Mathieu Young
A volunteer at No Us Without U hands a cardboard box of produce to another volunteer. They are indoors in a restaurant that is being used as a hub for food distribution. Both of the volunteers have handkerchiefs tied over their mouths to serve as face masks and they are both wearing black rubber gloves.
A volunteer at No Us Without U hands a cardboard box of produce to another volunteer. They are indoors in a restaurant that is being used as a hub for food distribution. Both of the volunteers have handkerchiefs tied over their mouths to serve as face masks and they are both wearing black rubber gloves.
2/3 Volunteers at No Us Without U work together to distribute boxes of food. | Mel Castro
A volunteers at No Us Without U sits in the trunk of a car and hands a bag of food to an individual standing outside of the car. They are handing off the bag through the car's open window.
A volunteers at No Us Without U sits in the trunk of a car and hands a bag of food to an individual standing outside of the car. They are handing off the bag through the car's open window.
3/3 No Us Without You LA was established during the COVID-19 pandemic to take care of those often overlooked — undocumented, back-of-house restaurant workers and their families. | Mel Castro

No Us Without You LA was established during the COVID-19 pandemic to take care of those often overlooked: undocumented, back-of-house restaurant workers and their families. Started by two restaurateurs who identified this need early on to support and uplift those most affected by the system, they set up food distribution programs for undocumented workers, distributing almost 120,000 pounds of food a week, taking caution and changing locations to protect those most vulnerable in their industry.

Bé Ù

Bé Ù is a queer, BIPOC, immigrant-run Vietnamese no-frills restaurant that serves up tasty, affordable meals and prides itself on ethical practices. Owner Uyên Lê previously worked at UCLA's Labor Center and addresses problems she witnessed in worker's rights issues and combats them within her own restaurant. Meals like bánh mì sandwiches cost just under $8 and caramelized pork and eggs over rice will cost you under $11; the prices reflect Bé Ù's commitment to the community it exists in and serves.

Roy Choi learns the secrets to making the braised pork belly and egg dish, Thit Kho.
Chef Uyên Lê Shares Her Secrets to Thit Kho

Revolutionario North African Tacos

This small, North African taco shop turned into a truly revolutionary food bank in the wake of COVID-19, when the owners decided to start a mutual aid fund and collect food donations to distribute to Asian American organizations and communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Their movement expanded to hot meals for people living on Skid Row, lunches for black seniors in South Central, and more. Now, Revolutionario North African Tacos is preparing to open at a new location in East Koreatown, but it appears that catering is still available.

Homegirl Café

Homegirl Café is an icon in Los Angeles, famous for its delicious food, but also its mission to provide a safe space for the system-impacted women — victims of domestic violence, single parents, gang-involved women and formerly-incarcerated women — who work there. Grab their classic chilaquiles or a bakery treat while supporting the rehabilitative mission of Homeboy Industries.

Learn more about the ways Homeboy Industries brings opportunities to the formerly incarcerated in this clip from the first season of "Broken Bread."
Homeboy Industries - From a Life of Crime to Croissants

Pueblo Cafe

Pueblo Cafe is a worker-owned cooperative, drawing from the principles of the Zapatista movement that center decision-making in the hands of the workers. The cafe is currently a pop-up at community events with hopes to eventually provide a space for political education and discussions about gentrification happening in South Central L.A.

Proof Bakery

Two bakers wearing white aprons stand side by side while crimping pie dough into a tin. They're both smiling down at the work they're doing.
Two bakers wearing white aprons stand side by side while crimping pie dough into a tin. They're both smiling down at the work they're doing.
1/3 Bakers at worker-owned cooperative Proof Bakery prepare pie doughs in the kitchen. | Franziska S. Charen
Four workers wearing surgical face masks and aprons stand behind a wooden counter and look intently at something out of frame. In front of them are metal trays and bowls. The metal tray has two layers of white round cakes sitting on it while the bowl has pureed fresh pumpkin.
Four workers wearing surgical face masks and aprons stand behind a wooden counter and look intently at something out of frame. In front of them are metal trays and bowls. The metal tray has two layers of white round cakes sitting on it while the bowl has pureed fresh pumpkin.
2/3 Worker-owners at Proof Bakery listen intently for instruction. | Franziska S. Charen
A woman wearing a white apron and a pink bandana around her head uses an offset spatula to glaze a chocolate cake.
A woman wearing a white apron and a pink bandana around her head uses an offset spatula to glaze a chocolate cake.
3/3 A worker-owner at Proof Bakery prepares a cake. | Franziska S. Charen

Proof Bakery in Atwater Village used to follow a traditional business model, but has transitioned to a worker-run cooperative in 2021. The worker-owned model champions "an inclusive, sustainable environment for everyone who works at the bakery," creating an equitable model of ownership where all workers have a seat at the table. Enjoy your yummy croissant knowing that it came from a place of social responsibility and respect for everyone who made it possible.

MAMA Los Angeles Drive-By Kitchen

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