Deepti Sharma, 33, grew up in a family that lived on North Indian cuisine. Her parents own the well-known Indian eatery Amma, a small, ochre-colored restaurant that chef Padma Lakshmi says is amongst the most authentic places to put North India in your mouth in New York. Sharma herself runs a unique immigrant, women, and POC-focused delivery business , the catering concierge service called FoodtoEat. The delivery service craftily partners only with restaurants owned by immigrants, women, and people of color – “folks like me,” she said.
The service offers help to small mom-and-pop restaurants by getting them catering gigs at corporate events, ranging from a 300-person team-lunch to a private dinner party, forcing the companies, in turn, to bring diversity and inclusion into their business. Sharma states that her business is “mission-based,” which means that it is who the restaurants are, and not what they serve, that matters to her more. “Our restaurants come from a diverse set of backgrounds, because I am a first-generation immigrant and an Indian American woman of color. To me it’s really important to represent those businesses because oftentimes opportunities don’t come their way,” she said.
FoodtoEat almost went out of business, after plummeting to a $0 revenue on March 13, shutting their offices, and sending all their staff to work from home.
In an impressive fundraiser, she raised more than $57,000 on GoFundMe to buy meals from her partner restaurants and bring them to frontline workers in hospitals; folks in senior living care homes; and more recently, domestic violence shelters; while also forging a partnership with World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit providing relief to disaster areas run by internationally acclaimed chef Jose Andres. “For us, it was about identifying food insecure communities that are in need, especially because we know a lot of people who lost their jobs,” she said.
As for the restaurants Sharma works with, two have already gone under, 30 of them are still open, with more slowly crawling out of coronavirus-induced paralysis, while most are still in statis. “In the next two to three months, we will see many more such restaurants go under,” said Sharma. Her unique catering company was doing well before the pandemic. And between pivoting to become a food donation service and handling two young children nestled in her in-laws’ house in Flushing, Queens, Sharma still manages to be a regular face at the Black Lives Matter protest marches around Queens and Brooklyn.