The marketing whizzes at a local agency have created a project to help struggling restaurant chefs affected by COVID-19 shutdowns. Michael Campos and Brandon Rodriguez, who founded Miami-based Neuelane, are the minds behind Taste of Miami, a cookbook aimed at raising awareness of the plight of the local service industry.
Even restaurants that have managed to stay afloat in the face of an entirely uncertain future had to lay off staff as closure orders were imposed. They also had to lay off marketing agencies.
"That’s when shit got real," as Campos tells it. "We were working on developing a brand identity and website for a restaurant that was launching in May when suddenly everything came to a screeching halt. The project was put on pause, and was even considered to be doomed before it began."
Rather than bow to the blow to their bottom line, the team at Neuelane opted to redirect their creative energy to give back to the Miami restaurants they know and love.
Creative director Jonathan Morffi suggested a twist on a proven idea: a community cookbook featuring Miami’s beloved restaurants that will raise money to support employees who were financially affected by the pandemic.
Campos says that they pitched the idea to restaurant owners in early June and had 30 confirmed cookbook contributors within ten days.
The requirements were straightforward: Provide a recipe that can easily be prepared at home and allow a photographer to shoot photos of the dish for the cookbook.
Photoshoots are being planned with Arbetter’s, Cuban Guys, Dos Croquetas, Latin House, Luna Park, Naked Taco, Phuc Yea, Pincho, Stephen’s Deli, and Tijuana Flats. Other participating restaurants include Coyo Taco, CAO Bakery, Eating House, Glass & Vine, Chefs on the Run, El Rey De Las Fritas, SuViche, and Night Owl Cookies.
The creators promise this won't be your abuela's cookbook. Targeting millennial Miamians, they've conceived a modern cookbook filled with recipes the average person can make at home but wouldn't under other circumstances get access to.
"We gave each restaurant the choice of submitting a dish that’s currently on their menu, an off-menu item, a dish they are thinking of adding, or a dish they got really creative with," Campos says.
He foresees about 50 recipes, including contributions from local food bloggers and a few out-of-town guests.
Taste of Miami recipes, along with the inspirations, restaurants, and chefs behind them, will come to life on Instagram and Pinterest via promotional spots that include photography and video.
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Campos and Rodriguez say Neuelane hopes to raise up to $50,000 in sponsorship funds to cover the costs associated with production and promotion. Whatever's left over will go to the restaurant fund along with proceeds from cookbook sales.
"As a small, five-person agency, we never have the opportunity to work on pro bono projects," Campos says. "And as a team that specializes in the restaurant industry, we've seen firsthand the devastating financial impact this pandemic has caused on all restaurants — especially the local mom-and-pop restaurants that we’ve come to love.
"We also see how the community has made efforts to help them. Taste of Miami is our way of keeping them around, because we couldn’t imagine a Miami without their food."