By Steven Gedra, Executive Chef, Black Sheep Restaurant & Bar
When we returned to Buffalo in 2009, my wife Ellen and I opened Bistro Europa on Elmwood Avenue. The restaurant business is a tough one, especially in a city like Buffalo where there are so many talented chefs and great restaurants to choose from. But we were lucky and soon developed a loyal clientele who seemed to appreciate our European-style menu. In 2014, we closed Bistro Europa and opened the Black Sheep Restaurant & Bar on Connecticut Street, doubling our seating capacity.
Again, we were blessed to develop a loyal group of customers who delight in our farm-to-table concept that revolves around handmade food; our pork chops seem to be particularly popular.
Ellen and I both love to cook – I’m the executive chef and she’s the baker – and owning a restaurant has always been our dream. But it is a difficult way to make a living. The hours are brutal, you never know whether you’ll fill the seats every night, and food prices vary all the time. That’s why we chose Buffalo – I grew up in Orchard Park; Ellen is from outside Rochester – because the people here are just wonderful. They are loyal, hard working and they appreciate a good meal.
So the next logical step for us was to give back to the community that helped create our success and fulfill our professional dream. In 2010, we participated in our first DINING OUT FOR LIFE, a national fundraising event that takes place in 60 cities each year,and raises funds and awareness to help people who are affected by HIV and AIDS. We very much believe in the cause – wiping out HIV and AIDS – and the people at Evergreen Health are an amazing, caring group, totally dedicated to providing medical, supportive, and behavioral services to those with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses and who are underserved by the healthcare system. We happily jumped on board.
Every year since, we’ve participated in Dining Out For Life, donating 50 percent of each check that night, including alcohol. Our staff donates a portion of their tips, as well. We were honored to serve as co-chairs last year and are happy to be back as co-chairs this year. All the money raised at this event which, this year, takes place on Tuesday, October 10, stays right here in Western New York and goes straight to the services and programs offered by Evergreen.
You can’t put a price on saving lives, but anything we can do to help this cause, we are going to do. We have to. We have to help those who support our business and we have to help our community. A restaurant isn’t just food, it’s people. Buffalo is people, too. It’s a tight-knit community, where helping each other is a way of life.
Clearly, great strides have been made in HIV/AIDs treatment. If it can be eradicated – and they’re closer to that every day – then events like DINING OUT FOR LIFE are so important! It’s tough to donate when you run a restaurant – margins are very narrow – but it’s important to tie yourself to a good cause and show that you believe in your community and want to give back.
And it’s so easy for you to participate: just pick one of the 90 (yes, 90!!) participating restaurants, grab some friends and go out to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner – or all three! – on Tuesday, October 10.