Life Cafe Blog
Life Cafe East Village Hurricane Heroes for Brunch

by John Sunderland

So any business is only as good as the people that work for it. That really shows up strong in an emergency situation.

This morning, in preparation before Hurricane Irene is expected to smack New York in the face, the owner and my wife, Kathy Life, had two options; (1) take the news that we may be flooded under feet of water seriously, as the East Village café is in the storm surge Zone A, or (2) stay at home and watch things unfold on the Weather Channel and meditate that all would be ok.

The flood threat meant that the basement of the Life Café premises on the corner of 10th Street and Avenue B would have to be emptied to prevent damage to all the raw materials and office stuff that we have down there. If not, a kitchen hand would have to be in scuba gear to go down to the basement to collect potatoes.

I cycled there as early as my bike (and my disbelief that I was doing this) would take me and at around 7:20 a.m. I arrived. The outside door was open and kitchen staff, in their whites, were wide awake and energized, hoisting up stuff from the basement.

I went down there to locate the cafe manager Mark Trzupek and knocked on and opened the office door. Inside I saw the broad back of a Navy Seal (that’s what it said on his tee shirt). The Navy Seals are here! Crikey, I thought we really are going to be underwater! Then the guy turned round; it was Mark.

Over the next couple of hours, people on the sidewalk looked and wondered what the hell was going on. The oriental bodega on the opposite corner traded busily as usual, always in front of the game (this morning they were selling rubber inflatables and waterproof subs).

Meanwhile Mark and his incredible kitchen team manhandled freezers and fridges, ice making machines and tons and tons of products in cans, boxes and sacks up to the surface to store it above the predicted flood. Sweating and straining, those amazing guys hauled to the surface the raw materials of the café up the steep and brutal stairs from the bowels of the building. The race was on to get it done and the task was completed well in time for all the guys to make it home before Mass Transit, the transport system for the New York City, shut down at noon, which was the first time that has happened in New York City’s history.

In the face of adversity; never mind making fantastic Huevos Rancheros and the greatest Eggs Benedict in the universe. This morning underlined to me again that it’s not just food and drink. Far more than that; it is great people that make a special café.