Hurricane Harvey

Houston Chef, Volunteers Serve Meals for Thousands

Bryan and Jennifer Caswell organize a network of volunteers to feed the flooded city—and they could use your help

As soon as Houston chef Bryan Caswell and his wife, Jennifer, could reach their midtown restaurant Reef after Hurricane Harvey made landfall last Friday, they fired up the grills. Since Tuesday, the Caswells and a fleet of volunteers have served nearly 20,000 meals to people displaced by the storm, police officers, the Coast Guard, military units, and volunteers.

“Reef’s dining room had enough water damage that we can’t open the actual restaurant to customers, but the kitchen had only one leak,” Jennifer says. “So we decided to operate it solely to serve meals to people who need them and the people who are taking care of others.”

photo: Jennifer Caswell

Chef Bryan Caswell unloads trays of food at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Bryan is currently managing a team of between fifteen and twenty local chefs and culinary students. Jennifer is organizing volunteers, donations, and vehicles to deliver thousands of meals daily to drop-off points, including the Convention Center, local shelters, and directly to first responders.  “We will cook and serve until we run out of product or human power,” Jennifer says. Local vendors have donated fresh produce and meat, and national and regional companies have sent nonperishable items. But their supplies are running low, and they need your help.

photo: Jennifer Caswell

Volunteers prepare salads to be delivered to people in shelters and first responders in Houston.

The best way to support the meal effort is to donate to the Caswells’ 501c3 organization, Southern Salt Foundation. Cash donations will fund food purchases and, Jennifer says, any leftover funds will be donated directly to families in need.

“We have a fleet of drivers that have formed this coalition of human power on wheels that takes things everywhere,” Jennifer says. “Houston’s food and beverage community is coming together on the fly. This is what we do.”