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Traverse City chef can't stay away from kitchen after restaurant closes — volunteers during outbreak

Max Johnston
Interlochen Public Radio

Bars and restaurants across Michigan are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means many chefs and cooks are out of work and have time to spare.

One cook in Traverse City is using that time to feed those in need.

Back in the kitchen

The kitchen at the Goodwill Inn in Traverse City churns out thousands of meals a week. During the COVID-19 pandemic they’ve ramped up production. Every week they give food to people in need like the elderly that are avoiding grocery stores and people experiencing homelessness.

In March, the kitchen got a new cook, although he’s no rookie.

"I started cooking when I was 16," Myles Anton, who is now 48, said.

Anton is the chef and owner of The Franklin and Trattoria Stella retauants in Traverse City. Neither have takeout options and are closed under a state order.

"We were kind of prepping for it — we kind of thought maybe it would happen — but it broke my heart," Anton said.

Feeding those in need

Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio
Interlochen Public Radio
Myles Anton cuts up some ham for a soup at the Goodwill Inn in Traverse City.

When his restaurants closed, Anton suddenly had a lot of free time. He eventually got restless and missed the kitchen, so he called the Goodwill Inn and asked if they needed any help. They’re taking volunteers that have been screened for recent travel or exposure to COVID-19.

Early Monday morning, he chopped up garlic that his restaurant donated. When they closed, all the produce they had in storage was given to the Inn’s kitchen.

The garlic was used in a ham and split pea soup.

"I’m familiar with this garlic," Anton said while dicing it.

Anton is making soups so they can feed big groups in bulk. He says cooking at the Goodwill Inn has given him some freedom as he no longer has the constraints of a menu or picky eaters.

“It’s really cool, especially the way they just say ‘go for it,'" Anton says. "Just make good food and feed people.”

Eventually, the soups Anton prepares will go to Addiction Treatment Services to feed patients recovering from drug addiction.

With all the uncertainty going around, Anton is sure of one thing: his restaurants will re-open.

"It’s really weird because I know in my mind when that happens it’s gonna be crazy," Anton says. "I’m looking forward to that day, but I don’t know when that will be."

In the meantime, he implores everybody to take advantage of drive-up or delivery options to keep local restaurants afloat.

But more importantly he says, go back when they re-open.

If you’re interested in helping or volunteering at the Goodwill Inn, you can find more information at their website.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.