For the Greater Good – How One Brooklyn Restaurateur Made Lemonade out of Lemons

I’ve been a fan of Greg Baxtrom and his food since I moved back to Brooklyn a couple of years ago. First was Olmsted and then came Maison Yaki (Happy 1-Year Anniversary!). Completely different concepts. Both inventive. Fun. And right across the street from one another in Prospect Heights.

Baxtrom is the person behind both of these acclaimed and popular Brooklyn restaurants (Check out the latest from GQ’s Best Restaurants in America list). The COVID-19 situation forced him, like so many others, to lay off staff and stop regular operations. His pandemic story goes well beyond him and his two restaurants though. He’s taken impressive steps to reach out to and help the community as a whole.

Photo from Greg Baxtrom’s Instagram

Olmsted has been operating as a free food bank in collaboration with The LEEInitiative since March 26 to support The Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Any restaurant worker who has been laid off, seen a significant shortage of hours and/or pay can come to the location for meals seven days a week. Baxtrom stepped up for New York City, but there are 18 other great restaurant owners across the country that have converted their businesses into food banks and have served over 100,000 meals at this point. That’s pretty amazing! Props to Chef Ed Lee for getting this started. Donations keep the food banks going, so if this is a cause you believe in, look into it further.

Screenshot from the Lee Initiative website

This kind of selflessness and love for the close-knit restaurant community is the kind of stuff that’s been touching to see the past couple of months. Baxtrom made lemonade out of lemons, thought fast, pivoted and created something really meaningful. I’m rooting for him and his Olmstead and Maison Yaki teams to come back stronger than ever when all of this is over.

This quote from Baxtrom from one of the articles I read sums it up well:

“Now is the time to use our voice to help others,” owner Greg Baxtrom said. “I have the ability to help others, and shame on you if you do and you’re not doing that.”

Like many restaurants, they have created a GoFundMe page to support the staff AND another one to support the local farmers, butchers, fisherman and other suppliers that kept food on the restaurants’ tables.

As I wrote in my last post, there are many in the industry doing admirable things in this tumultuous time. I will keep sharing what I see, and you should too!

DISCLAIMER: While I provide information about charitable organizations and fundraising pages, I am not endorsing, providing recommendations or making a comment on the platforms’ efficacy. All readers should do their own due diligence should they choose to participate.


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