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Opening the ‘soup kitchen’ for writers

Marketplace Staff Jan 22, 2008

Opening the ‘soup kitchen’ for writers

Marketplace Staff Jan 22, 2008


Doug Krizner: In Hollywood this morning, nominees will be announced for the Academy Awards. This year’s Oscar ceremony is in doubt of course because of the writers strike. But there’s buzz this morning about informal talks beginning this week.

As the strike drags on, businesses catering to writers have been suffering. In Los Angeles, Lenora Chu stopped by one restaurant that got creative during these tough times.

Lenora Chu: Campanile is that swanky hotspot famous for its gourmet grilled cheese. In Italian, campanile means “bell tower.”

Problem is, since the writer’s strike began, few bells have been ringing at the restaurant — least of all the cash register.

Mark Peel: And the business has been seriously affected by the writer’s strike.

That’s Campanile chef and owner Mark Peel. He noticed the midweek crowd thinned out after the strike began, so he launched the Writer’s Soup Kitchen.

On Wednesdays, anyone with a writer’s union card can bring in a table full of guests, and everyone gets a three-course meal for $18. That’s about half price. It’s been packed Wednesdays ever since.

Peel: We’re not making any money on this, but it is filling the restaurant. The truth is, no matter what your profit margin is, if you’re not selling anything, you’re not making any money.

Peel says the soup kitchen is also his thank you to his patrons over the years. Most are in show business.

Peel: They’re the people who make the movies, make the TV shows. They’re the writers, the producers, the directors, the cinematographers, the set designers, the costume designers.

An added bonus to soup kitchen night? Peel’s loyal customers are bringing in friends who have never been to Campanile.

Peel: And those are the people I really want to see — the people we’ve never seen before.

People like Internet writer Derrick Hughes. Hughes says businesses are offering writers discounts on everything from massages to martinis, and he appreciates it. Tonight is his first time at Campanile.

Derrick Hughes: But it’s not like writers will go actively seeking out, like Ah, you know, I’m going to get money, free food and half-price off on stuff, like that. It’s more like people having big hearts, you know, that’s really been the great thing.

Eddie Gorodetsky is an Emmy Award winning TV comedy writer. He’s been a Campanile regular for a decade. The Soup Kitchen has become a weekly routine. He says it brings him out of his cave.

Eddie Gorodetsky: It’s really cause writers are often invisible. We’re kinda, you know, socially inept.

One more thing, he says: Half-priced meals are great, but he’d love to get back to work.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lenora Chu, for Marketplace.

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