Chez Nous Donates $900 to Berkshire Humane Society
LEE, Mass. — A local French restaurant is managing to benefit the community during a markedly hard time for the food industry.
Chez Nous raised $900 for the Berkshire Humane Society with a vegan pop-up and continues to host fundraising "Community Nights" when a portion of proceeds go to local charities.
"With the pandemic limiting Berkshire Humane Society's fundraising through live events, we are thankful for local businesses who have stepped up to help us," Executive Director John Perreault said.
"We're especially grateful to Chez Nous. Restaurants have taken quite a hit and for Chez Nous to do what they did, going above and beyond to help homeless animals, was fabulous. Plus, the vegan dinner was delicious! Chez Nous Bistro's Community Dinners just go to show how small businesses help area nonprofits survive. Shop local."
The eatery is currently operating under a takeout model with owners Rachel Portnoy and Franck Tessier preparing everything themselves. A husband-and-wife, chef-and-pastry-chef dream team, they have been in business for about 12 years with changing seasonal menus made of French bistro classics, vegetarian dishes, and gluten-free options.
Portnoy and Tessier have been doing fundraising nights for three years now, reaching a myriad of different Berkshire County organizations.
"We are looking forward to supporting an organization that has brought so much joy to our home and homes throughout the Berkshires," they wrote on Facebook when promoting the event.
Given the pandemic circumstances and people's hesitance to leave the house, Portnoy said she was pleased that takeout has been well received. At the vegan pop-up, they served 120 dinners to local food and animal lovers.
"There's just so many organizations in the Berkshires that we do work with," Portnoy said. "This year because of takeout we figured we wouldn't let that stop us doing it, and in fact, it's so much better this way because when doing it as an in house dinner, not as many people come, with takeout you get over 100 people, right, and in, in house in the winter, sometimes you know we do 40 or 50 people."
Portnoy said it "seemed appropriate" to have a vegan pop-up for the shelter, as many animal lovers favor a plant-based diet. With Chez Nous already specializing in veggie dishes and having vegan nights in the past, it was a perfect match.
The menu included roasted winter vegetables and chickpea salad with lemon and herb vinaigrette, curried Creole tempeh, coconut rice, vegetable samosas, and a dark chocolate pot de creme.
The event was spread over two nights: Thursday, Feb. 25, and Friday, Feb. 26, to reach more customers.
"We were worried about the vegan menu, we thought we were taking a chance but we still did a really good amount of dinners, it was so tasty too it was it was a really good venue." she said.
"It really wasn't even our customers who are vegan or don't eat vegan normally, we had so many messages where they were saying how much they enjoyed it."
The restaurant recently raised $1,100 for Community Health Programs (CHP) and $1,000 for Roots Rising. Portnoy said the donations are double or triple the amount with takeout as compared to sitdown dining.
Portnoy and Tessier made the decision to pivot to takeout only in October when outdoor dining became difficult with colder weather. She said they will bring back staff and do limited indoor dining in the spring when everyone is fully vaccinated.
"Everything last year was so kind of thrown together because it was so strange," Portnoy said in regards to Chez Nous needing to pivot to meet the needs of the pandemic.
She added that the eatery will be seeing a rebranding with its reopening, including expanded outdoor seating and exciting new menu items. iBerkshires will be catching up with the culinary duo when they are closer to finalizing the plans.
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