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Chez Nous has been doing takeout since fall but has continued to host community funraiser nights.

Chez Nous Donates $900 to Berkshire Humane Society

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Chez Nous' Bruno 'is still tired from serving over 120 dinners to support Berkshire Humane Society,' according to the bistro's Facebook post.

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.

Tags: Berkshire Humane Society,   donations,   restaurants,   

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'Stop Telling Women to Smile' Author Speaks on Street Harassment

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh speaks about her book and artwork in a webinar last week.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Telling a woman to smile is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to street harassment. 
Author and artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh outlined her experience with street harassment and the process that went into creating "Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We're Taking Back Our Power" in a webinar last week.
This was the third component of the Berkshire Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force's annual "One Book, One Community" event.  About two dozen groups around Berkshire County first participated in a communitywide read of the book and Fazlalizadeh's artwork was displayed in several locations across the county leading up to the virtual presentation.
Fazlalizadeh is a Black and Iranian visual artist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. She's a painter whose work ranges from the gallery to streets all over the world and has been profiled by publications including The New York Times and Time Magazine.
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