There's no question that the quality, variety and diversity of American cuisine has been profoundly affected by immigrants. From bringing international palates and pantry items across oceans and continents, to workers looking to apply their trade in a thriving market, the restaurant industry is one of the country's most concentrated melting pots. But what would those kitchens and dining rooms look like if those talented chefs, cooks and servers were suddenly gone? On February 16th, diners throughout the nation will find out as restaurants from coast to coast participate in "A Day Without Immigrants."
The social media-led protest will take a stand against President Donald Trump's recent steps to crack down on immigration and his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. It asks immigrants and the places that employ them to skip work—or close for the day—in solidarity. While all businesses, including schools, are encouraged to participate, the restaurant industry has really heard the call, with some of its biggest names signing on to shut down on Feb. 16. Among the prominent chefs taking a stand is José Andrés, who announced on Twitter that he will close five locations—three Jaleo spots, and Zaytinya and Oyamel.
It's unclear just how many restaurants, suppliers, and workers will participate in the protest, but current counts in various news reports shows the number is at least in the dozens. And if they can't close, several other restaurants have pledged to send their non-citizen workers home, including McDonough's Boundary Stone, where the owner will be manning the grill in place of his usual cooks.