You may know Erik Bruner-Yang as the man behind ABC Pony, Maketto, Spoken English, and Brothers and Sisters, as well as the executive chef of &pizza. Now, he’s adding activist and social entrepreneur to his resume. Bruner-Yang is making a positive splash in the District, adding a bright spot to the dark days the hospitality industry has faced in the wake of Covid-19. His Power of 10 initiative invites you to buy a meal for someone who needs it while also keeping local restaurants running, and &pizza’s Hero Pie program allows customers to buy pizza for themselves and send one to a healthcare worker. Though busier than ever, we spoke to Bruner-Yang about his initiative, his busy life at home and how he’s finding balance.
District Fray: When restaurants began shutting down and you were wondering how to help yourself and other people in the restaurant world, how did you land on the Power of 10 model?
Erik Bruner-Yang: We launched on March 26 in Washington, D.C. [after] restaurants were shut down on the 15th. At first, we were just in survival mode: punching our own numbers and trying to figure out what was feasible in regards to what we were capable of doing. The same number kept coming up. If we wanted to keep 10 people on full-time, this is how much money we needed to make every week, and this was about how many dinners we would have to sell. After playing with those numbers a little bit, it became this very clean [formula] of $10,000 a week for 10 full-time jobs and a thousand meals. We realized those numbers would work anywhere in the country.
Why was incorporating this twofold benefit – feeding people on the frontlines and supporting restaurants – so important to you?
I think it allows people to feel like their donation is touching a lot of people. It’s a kind of classic, trickle-up economics. The more dollars you keep in your immediate community, the more impact it has. So one $10 meal is helping the restaurant owner, which is helping the employees, which is then helping the employees pay their bills, which is then also helping people get free food and the vendors get paid. Then those vendors are able to pay their employees. The circle of one meal donated is really profound.
I know you made the model to be easily replicated.
Has anyone outside the DMV done it?
Yes. There’s a group in Charlotte, North Carolina. They launched their own chapter of Power of 10, and their website is powerof10initiavecharlotte.com. We also launched in L.A. last week.
With this initiative and your other spots offering takeout, would you consider yourself just as busy as before Covid-19?
I definitely feel super busy, but also really motivated. Both of the restaurants at [The LINE] Hotel are closed, so it’s just ABC Pony and Maketto. I’m also juggling my job with &pizza as their executive chef. I’ve got three kids at home and one of them is a newborn, so yeah. It’s f–king crazy.
How are you balancing all of this and staying sane? What does a typical day look like for you right now?
I’m fully in charge of dinner, bedtime and bath time [when]I get home. I get my personal time around 10:30 [p.m.], and that’s mostly just doing last-minute cleanup around the house. I’ll hang out with my wife. We shoot the shit for a little bit, then we start the cycle all over again. I started doing yoga because I generally hate cardio. At 35, and with what’s going on right now, it’s been something I needed to do anyways. I’ll do some breathing [and] stretching, so that’s been nice. I follow this YouTube channel [called] Yoga with Kassandra. I find her not annoying. If you’re a beginner and don’t want to feel too overwhelmed, I recommend her channel.
Support the Power of 10 initiative at www.powerof10initiative.com.
Buy a frontline worker a pie at www.andpizza.com/heropies or text #feedthem to 20003.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content and to get a monthly print edition delivered to your door. Support local journalism and start your membership today.