Celebrity chef David Chang, founder of the successful Momofuku restaurant brand, is donating his $1 million dollar “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” winnings to the restaurant industry. Like the other celebrity contestants on the show, Chang had been playing for the charity of his choosing, the Southern Smoke Foundation, a Houston-based crisis-relief organization for hospitality industry workers experiencing debt or other hardships.
“I’m so honored that Dave chose Southern Smoke as his charity,” founder Chris Shepherd said. “Now, more than ever, with indoor dining shut down in many parts of the country and temperatures dropping to prohibit outdoor dining, food and beverage industry employees are desperate.” Southern Smoke was established in 2017 and COVID-19’s impact on restaurants, bars, and catering companies in 2020 has made the need for financial crisis intervention all the more urgent. According to their website, the Southern Smoke Foundation has distributed more than $5.7 million, both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry.
Chang has seen first-hand how the spread of covid-19 has cost the hospitality industry hundreds of billions of dollars and put many people out of work. When Chang reached the $500,000 mark, host Jimmy Kimmel cautioned him that no celebrity contestant had ever taken home “the big check.” Chang seriously considered walking away, but trusting his luck, he decided to go all in. “I’m a gambling man and shame on me if this is wrong, but I’m doing this because having a million dollars right now, in this moment, is a game-changer for many, many families.”
Unless you’ve been lucky enough to work from home the entire time, it’s likely your industry has been affected in one way or another by the pandemic. Across the globe people have faced tough decisions on how to navigate a socially distanced life. From teachers creating and maintaining virtual AND in-person curriculums to drivers and delivery people, as well as healthcare professionals on the brink of burnout. Millions who work in the hospitality industry, including food and drink service, have seen unemployment since early into the pandemic in March. Thankfully, many people, like Chang, have found ways to help others through this and inspire others to do the same.
Chang won over several front-line workers in this season of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which also featured celebrities Tiffany Haddish, Julie Bowen, Ray Romano, Rebel Wilson and Joel McHale. The restaurateur, author and television personality is known for founding the Michelin-star winning Momofuku restaurant group as well as Netflix original series “Ugly Delicious” and “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.” Southern Smoke Foundation immediately celebrated the win on twitter with the tweet “WE WON A MILLION DOLLARS!!!! #TAKINGCAREOFOUROWN