Chef Andrew Gruel raises funds for restaurant workforce struggling because of pandemic

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has forced restaurant after restaurant to shut their doors, leaving workers struggling to make ends meet.

A Southern California chef and television personality is raising funds alongside his wife to help these families stay afloat.

Chef Andrew Gruel and his wife said Monday that hundreds of applicants have reached out to them for assistance.

The owners of the Slapfish Restaurant Group are behind a GoFundMe fundraiser to help employees in the restaurant industry.

Gruel said most donations were small amounts, but it all adds up.

The GoFundMe has already raised more than $230,000 from more than 2,000 donors.

Some big names have supported the cause with big change, like businessman and TV personality Marcus Lemonis, who gave $25,000.

"We're here to be a really, really quick, unbureaucratic relief line for anybody and everybody. We're not filtering through based upon a lot of that 10 pages of red tape. It's all about who needs help and let's make it happen as quickly as possible," Gruel said.

To the Gruels their employees are team members - family.

After helping their own, the couple extended the invitation nationwide.

Story after story, after verifying with employers, the couple gives out what is needed.
Many have been those living in the shadows undocumented, not eligible for federal assistance.

"A huge portion of the workforce, especially here in Southern California, are undocumented kitchen workers - people that we've all known for years. They feel like they're part of our family and they're being left out here. It's the forgotten group because they're afraid to apply for benefits. They're afraid to even reach out to any government office in order to ask for help and they are completely left in the dark and forgotten about," Gruel said.

Gruel shared videos of applicants and grateful recipients with Eyewitness News.

"I can't put into words how much I'm in shock and how much I needed that. It means the world," Matthew Roth said in a video shared to his Twitter account.

The co-owner of Kaya's Kitchen, Jeff Newton, posted a video on Instagram saying, "They're helping the small business people. They're helping people like us to get through this month. Thank you. God Bless you."

Gruel said as of Monday, they had distributed at least $130,000. Anyone wanting to donate or apply can click here.
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