HELL’S KITCHEN — After construction issues delayed by several months the opening of a restaurant helmed by the caterer for the cast of "Hamilton," he turned to the Broadway community for help.
“Monies have run out and so is our time,” the chef — who for years has catered for popular Broadway shows, including “Wicked” and “Kinky Boots" — wrote on his business’ Facebook page last week.
“With that said, to all my skilled friends and stagehands, let’s have a pizza day and knock it all out."
Within days, his circle of Broadway carpenters, electricians, stagehands and engineers had started stopping by the restaurant, lending a hand with everything from fixing holes in the walls and installing light fixtures to painting doors and hanging mirrors, he said.
“For two months, I’ve been kind of sitting here, with this long list, trying to figure out what I could do, and feeling overwhelmed just to keep it moving,” Randy Stricklin-Witherspoon explained. “When I was asking for help, I was just putting it out there, not expecting this huge reply.”
The chef had planned to open SpoonFed NYC at 331 W. 51st St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues, this past October, he told DNAinfo New York.
But delays in construction at the restaurant space and issues with the contractor pushed the opening date back. By March, he had fallen four months behind in rent.
“Our landlord has been amazingly patient, but business is business, and I owe them a lot of money,” he said.
Since the weekend, however, members of the Broadway community have been picking up where the contractors left off.
Meanwhile, a fundraising page that a makeup artist for "Wicked" set up soon after had raised $15,120 of its $20,000 goal as of Wednesday afternoon.
On Monday, a crew of around 10 people, including “Wicked” sound man Jordan Pankin, were hard at work inside the space, Stricklin-Witherspoon said.
“If you had to describe Randy, you’d describe him as someone who’s always up, who’s always smiling, and who’s always giving a handshake and a hug,” Pankin said.
“When we… realized that he was kind of being left high and dry and really needed us, we said, ‘Hey, what are we going to do?’ And people started showing up.”
Pankin, who's known Stricklin-Witherspoon since the '90s, said his son used to help the caterer deliver food and count money.
“It’s kind of emotional to us, because we’ve all believed in this [restaurant],” Pankin explained. “Every little bit brings us closer to opening the doors and Randy being able to feed the public, which, believe me, we are waiting for that.”
The head carpenter for “Wicked” was also helping out at the restaurant space on Monday.
“Randy is a fabulous soul, and it’s kind of an end-of-the-game, as it were,” said the carpenter, who declined to provide his name. “We kind of feel like racing for the clock to get this thing open.”
Even Broadway cast members have been dropping by the space, to drop off tools and help clean up.
"I have actors on their hands and knees scrubbing up spackle," Stricklin-Witherspoon said. "They come by between their breaks."
With help from volunteers, the chef hopes to open the restaurant by the end of the month.
“I tear up every time someone walks through the door,” he said of the "amazing" support from the Broadway community. “I had no idea… how much this affected the entire community until now.”