A Message from Chef Cory Hughes:

Posted December 16th, 2020


We’ve been struggling thinking out “out of the box” ideas to keep our restaurant going, our staff paid and not losing our own house during this pandemic. While struggling with all these changes recently, I would come home at night to see the exhausted face of my wife, Kate. 

Kate is a former ICU nurse and currently working daylight at Allegheny General Hospital’s EP lab so she can help us at night at the restaurant. Kate was previously on the COVID ICU team and recently saw her peer’s struggling at the ICU departments with staffing, with morale and with the pandemic in general. 

She decided to start moonlighting at the ICU departments on nights and weekends (she just worked two weeks in a row). I would see her come home with the PAPR mask lines still on her face hours after her shift was done. I would talk with her about how the units were doing and sometimes she would be in tears. I felt powerless.

One day she was talking about how many people have been sending food. “I’m grateful for all the donations, but can I just get a salad!”

The next day I was talking to a Marine Corps Buddy, and he was listening to what was going on. He told me that the “Classic Diner” in West Chester just had a guest purchase catered lunch for the entire ER staff at Paoli Memorial Hospital. That was a great idea he told me.

Within one hour, Alex (the co-owner) of Fig & Ash started working on a campaign to help our frontline workers, help the restaurant stay alive and keep staff employed. We decided to call it “Pay It Forward” Catering because the idea already resonated with the public because of the movie.

We are now ready to go public. We started setting up the backend computer system to make this able to be purchased online when a guest saw the item available and called to get details. 

So far, Fig & Ash has had donations to cover three full meals for ICU departments and the ER. From speaking with some of the department heads at AGH we found out an ICU department typically has about 30 staff to run a COVID unit and the ER is almost double that. Alex and I mapped out what a meal program would be (salads for Kate of course!) sandwiches, wraps, and desserts to keep their bodies and spirits fed.

We are asking you to please consider making a donation to “Pay It Forward.”  

We will coordinate with the departments on which days/nights would be best. We are also asking our peers in the restaurant industry to take this ball and run with it. There are a ton of exhausted and hungry COVID frontline workers in Pittsburgh and the rest of the country. 

Thank you,

Cory Hughes 

Executive Chef