AUSTIN (KXAN) — Chef Darold Gordon’s year started out looking good.
“We were getting together ready for the festival to start … we had SXSW pretty much sold out. We’ve been working on that for five years. We had just got to where it was sold out.”
Gordon had more than 200 bands scheduled and lined-up.
Then, “COVID-19 came around and knocked everything dead.”
“Oh man, my head is in a bad place cause I’m from New Orleans. I’ve been through Hurricane Katrina and everything, and I honestly say Hurricane Katrina was a big ‘donk’ but COVID-19 probably taking over — That might be the worst-est thing to happen to me because even in New Orleans we lost a few family members to COVID-19,” he said.
The Big Easy Bar & Grill owner’s dining-room on East 12th Street shut down, he laid-off workers in March, and more recently, an April electrical fire only furthered his financial burdens.
“I think the fire was … man, that was like the biggest blow ever because, like I said, we was only open for a week or two and it looked like that week or two was gonna be alright … it was looking like we were gonna be able to pull it off,” Gordon said.
The fire is still under investigation, according to the Austin Fire Department. Gordon states it started in his RV camper parked behind the restaurant, which served as his office — now a total loss. But, it also damaged the back-half of the main building, where all of his electric boxes and plumbing were located. That put him behind because he didn’t have insurance on the camper.
“Life get hard, and now we started trying to stay alive on the east side,” he said.
In the task ahead to reopen, Gordon is currently installing new electrical wiring along with plumbing, but that has stalled due to lack of funds and bills continuing to roll in. However, there is a light Gordon hopes will spark a change of fortune. A devoted customer, Kristen Chambers, came calling to help, so he enlisted her to launch a GoFundMe campaign last week.
“It’s very touching, man, because I know it’s a tough time for everybody and uncertain time for everybody, and for my customers and people that don’t know me to do something like that — that’s overwhelming at this time. And it’s — I think the COVID-19’s actually bringing all of us closer to one another. You know, some good things and bad things happen in life, but I think that at this day and time, I think I actually see where it’s bringing us closer … I think it looks like the world is trying to go in the right direction for once … It’s just a definite blessing. And I thank everybody for helping me out. Thinking that much of the Big Easy.”Gordon said.
They hope to raise $75,000. Right now, they’re closing in on $9,000 but still have a long way to go. Gordon said he plans to use the money towards rebuilding, get ahead on backed-up bills and eventually hire back some of his employees he says are still out of work.
If you’d also like to support Gordon beyond donating, you can order takeout from his food truck and online, which offers both pick-up or delivery via third-party services. Of note, his back alleyway is now the front entrance, which can be accessed from both Salina and Chicon streets. The food truck is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Overall, for him, it’s important to stick around in east Austin as a Black-owned business. He wants his family to continue Big Easy’s legacy, and most of all, continue for the community.
“I wanna hang around with my kid’s kids and have this place and it still be Black-owned and my grandkids can run this place. That’s a great deal to see a young Black entrepreneur stay around for a long time. I’m not in it just to make money and get out and live life. I’m in it for [so] my grandkids can have something, and they kid’s kids can have something and east Austin can have some of the best Cajun food that I know how to make from New Orleans, Louisiana, with live music.”