I interviewed Chef Kevin Sousa recently because he crowdsourced $310,000 to open a restaurant, farm and jobs program in Braddock, PA, a town 0f 2,200 that’s lost more than 90% of its population and buildings.
Sousa has three successful restaurants and a bar in nearby Pittsburgh, but Braddock Mayor John Fetterman helped the restauranteur see opportunities and possibilities in Braddock, even though median income is 77% lower than the state’s average.
For a small-town mayor, Fetterman draws national attention. He speaks plainly about the challenges facing Braddock and projects authenticity.
In our conversation, Chef Sousa shared an anecdote with me that I found, well, startling; I asked if it was OK to share it with a wider audience, and he consented:
“… The final day of our Kickstarter, we were in celebratory mode, it was a huge day for us. It was also -10 degrees in Pittsburgh. He called Equitable Gas, the local gas company — I was in the room — and he said, ‘listen, it’s going to be brutally cold today, and I need to find out if we have any Braddock residents that are on the shutoff list or have currently had their gas shut off.’
He got the list and leveraged the gas company to turn their heat back on though his sheer will of making shit happen. Then, he went to some of these homes and families and got kids and got them warm until their heat was turned back on. This was the same day that this national media blitz is happening, and he says, ‘Kevin, I got something to deal with, come over, and we’ll talk about it, but I got some issues.’
Nobody prompted him to do that. He did that because that’s the kind of guy he is. You’ll never hear that story.
This guy is for real. I pride myself on the only thing I have to give, because I don’t have a lot of money, is my own integrity. Me and John, we’re cut from the same cloth. I don’t put myself anywhere near him, because he’s just a very, very special person.”
Watch Morgan Spurlock’s documentary,