This Seattle restaurant is closed, but the kitchen is open to feed the community
When a restaurant shuts down, there’s more to it than turning off the lights. There is still plenty to deal with, including using up uncooked food and fresh ingredients. Many chefs are turning them to meals for those in need. One of them is Melissa Miranda, chef owner of Musang in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Musang is closed. But the kitchen remains busy. Sous chef Jonnah Ayala is by the sink rinsing a pot of uncooked rice for one of the dishes. Miranda lists today’s menu.
“Lugaw, which is rice porridge also known as arroz caldo,” Miranda said. “We have pineapple sweet and sour chicken, mac and cheese, we have salad with an orange sesame vinaigrette. We have barbecue as well, we’ll offer it with rice.”
The food will feed people in the community: a couple of senior housing in the Chinatown International District, students who are missing school lunches, and anybody who’s struggling during the shutdown.
“A lot of the pick-ups yesterday were like educators who are affected and their families and their children, and we have a huge population of families and multi-generational families that live up here on Beacon Hill.”
Musang (pronounced moo-SAHNG) had only been open a little more than two months. Then the financial effects of COVID-19 began to hit restaurants. Musang started offering take-out and was doing brisk business. But Miranda says it didn’t feel right.
“When you see things coming so close to home, half of my staff are in multi-generational homes, they live with their parents, grandparents and children, we need to think about life over profit.”
So they pivoted once more. Into a community kitchen.
Miranda’s passion for food and cooking came early on.
“I used to cook when I was a kid with my Dad.”
She worked in the service industry throughout college. Her early career in cooking took her to New York and Italy. When she finally opened her restaurant, she decided to return to her Filipino roots.
“Musang is named after my father. He immigrated here in the ‘70s. He used to drive a Mustang and the “T” fell off so he became Musang. Musang means wild cat in Tagalog and he’s a really big personality.”
Miranda says her childhood memories and her parents’ generous spirit inspired her to create community through food. The outbreak has changed the business side of things, but Miranda says the focus on community hasn’t changed.
As word got out, donations have been coming in from other businesses and chefs. Musang’s community kitchen is evolving as a collective.
“Tariq Abdullah, from Feed the People, Chera Amlag from Hood Famous, Kristi Brown and Damon from that Brown Girl Cooks, and there’s a group out of the ID, we’re on the text thread and every morning we’re what the asks are and how we can help.”
In what used to be the dining room, there are boxes of onions, mushrooms, and other ingredients. Some are from her supply, but most are donations from other restaurants, and neighborhood residents.
Miranda’s phone is constantly pinging. At one point she stops to take a call when someone walks to the door. Outside, a volunteer from the International District stops by to drop off some supplies, including some leftover masks.
After setting the donations aside, Miranda goes back to the kitchen to continue prepping for tomorrow’s meals. She says she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“If we were like, you have to be at home, I’d be doing this out of my house. Absolutely.”
Miranda says it’s the reason why she opened Musang--to feed people.