The People’s Kitchen at El Compadre serves free meals and social justice to those in need



Craig LaBan @CraigLaBan |

At 7 a.m. one recent Tuesday morning, the crew from El Compadre already had their hands in the dirt of an urban farm in Point Breeze, clearing-out fallow beds and turning the soil of their newly acquired garden plots, even gathering their lucky first harvest, a bushy green purslane left by previous tenants.

“Purslane is a very delicious weed that a lot of the gardeners don’t care about,” says Carly Pourzand, 27, an avid gardener who’s also been coordinating the transformation this spring of El Compadre into the People’s Kitchen, where these greens would soon be cooked.

A rotating crew of chefs

The restaurant, whose space had been in limbo since owners Cristina Martínez and Ben Miller relocated their renowned Barbacoa South Philly to its current spot nearby two years ago, has found a new mission during the pandemic, morphing into an ambitious community kitchen where a daily-changing roster of guest chefs cook 1,000 free meals a week for those in need. Funded by philanthropy, driven by concern over a worsening hunger crisis and the desire to affect wider systemic change, the project has become a prime stage for a new generation of chefs motivated to cook for social justice as a result of the coronavirus.

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