Serving up hope: Former West Concord residents launch meal delivery service during coronavirus pandemic
The first delivery was filled with smiles and screams of excitement. A single mother of two young boys, getting a restaurant-style meal delivered.
“Their smiles and screams of excitement filled our hearts,” said Rachel Amiralian. “We bottled that feeling and cherish it. It’s been the guiding light through these dark times.”
Amiralian and her boyfriend, Gavin Lambert, recently launched WECO Hospitality, a meal delivery service after Lambert, a chef, was laid off a few weeks ago from Woods Hill Table in Concord after the novel coronavirus crippled the industry.
“I think we all saw it coming,” said Lambert, who joined Woods Hill as sous chef in March 2019 after previously working there as Tournant. “I tried, like many others, to keep my spirits up and plan for the best, but I think everybody was expecting the worst. There was no feasible way for us to stay open, and that meant people losing jobs.”
How it came about
According to Lambert, Amiralian is the queen of entrepreneurial endeavors. While they were living in West Concord, she came up with an idea for a full-service catering/private chef business.
It was sidelined for a while as they were both busy with their actual careers. As Lambert whipped up creations at Woods Hill, Amiralian was a creative writer and film producer who had been cooking professionally for the past year.
“When I lost my job she suggested we revisit it,” Lambert said. “As you can imagine, quarantine left me with plenty of free time, and we needed something to keep us both from going crazy.”
His natural response was to cook, but only feeding Amiranlian and himself wasn’t enough. He wanted to feed the masses, and he’s doing that during this time of need.
“I think the idea is bigger than just the food,” he said. “During these times of isolation, social distancing and generally bleak outlooks, people need something to remind them that they are not alone. Humans have made it through countless societal hardships, so I have no doubt that we will all push through this one, too.”
In their first week, the current Belmont residents served just shy of 100 people. They have fed 25 families across multiple towns.
What is WECO?
Lambert once worked for a company in New York by the name of NoHo Hospitality Group. Chef Andrew Carmellini, a hero and inspiration to Lambert and the numerous successful restaurants and hotels he started, gave the name NoHo Hospitality a lot of clout in the industry.
Now, Lambert said, with so many restaurants closing and laying off employees, Carmellini has stepped up in a bigger way to organize relief and support groups that help industry workers nationwide.
“I guess I was sort of emulating that,” he said, “hoping that by replicating some of the phonetics, I could embody the drive and spirit of his organization and make it my own.”
The pride Lambert and Amiranlian still have from living and working in West Concord played a factor in launching their company.
“We just love the community there,” he said. “We wanted something that was catchy, fun and had a sort of rallying cry to it. ‘We are WECO’ is just fun to say, and everyone can say it no matter where they live. It’s become a mindset, an attitude, a way to support your friends, family and community through spreading love and good vibes.”
Dishing out the love
The WECO menu changes daily. Each week Lambert writes a new menu for their WECO family to enjoy. They use it as an opportunity to appreciate and explore different cuisines and introduce people to new foods they wouldn’t normally eat. Meals are typically less than $10 per person.
“We’ve sold out every day and the amount of excitement about each dish has been overwhelming and wonderful,” Amiranlian said.
The couple even surprises people and families in need with a delivery drop almost once every night, Monday through Friday.
“We started by choosing friends and families that we know personally,” she said. “People who have lost their jobs and may struggle to pay their bills, buy food for themselves or have families to provide for. Now, people are submitting friends and families who could use a free dinner via email and Instagram. The love is contagious.”
Lambert said he knows these dark times of coronavirus will end someday. But until then, they will continue to do their part in providing some glimmer of hope.
“There needs to be a beacon, something good and wholesome that brings joy in the darkest of times,” he said. “By providing our communities with delicious meals crafted with love, we hope to bring a little light into people’s lives.”