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Tastes of Tampa Bay: Dishing Up Relief

October 9, 2017

Harvey, Irma, and Maria. You’d be hard pressed to walk around the bay area and find a resident who does not have a visceral reaction to those names. The 2017 hurricane season has caused unimaginable devastation. Many Tampa residents—in addition to dealing with impacts from Irma—know at least one person who has lost a great deal due to these destructive storms. Reality check: hurricane season is currently at its peak. Fact: it’s not officially over until December 1st. Truth: Tampa residents and businesses have shown resilience and generosity in navigating direct impacts and supporting those who have lost nearly all—if not all—they have worked for.

Gracious Hosts

Jake and Casey, owners of Tastes of Tampa Bay, know the meaning of hard work. Growing a successful catering company has been no easy feat. As entrepreneurs, they understand the need to have protocols for natural disasters. As kind human beings, they feel compelled to use their business as a way to offer relief to people whose lives have been hit by recent, powerful storms. Hurricane Irma was the couple’s first major hurricane since moving to Florida. Simultaneously business and family people, they had to protect their assets, show empathy to employees’ needs for preparation and evacuation, and care for their own children. “Boarding things up and organizing food items was interesting,” they shared, “as you couldn’t help but think, depending on how this thing goes, the roof may fly off so doing the dishes is pretty futile.” The pair believes they are fortunate, as dealing with temporary loss of power and product is vastly different from rebuilding everything: “The need is great in many places due to an angry mother nature,” Jake expressed. Unforgiving storms have helped them reevaluate their practices.

Creating, After the Storm

After the threat of Hurricane Hermine, during the 2016 hurricane season, TOTB created the Hurricane Bowl. Now a staple on their Street Surfer food truck, which offers a seasonal menu with locally sourced ingredients, the bowl includes proteins such as blackened tuna or roasted garlic chimichurri flank steak. It’s full of seasonal veggies and coconut ginger brown rice, and it’s topped with house surfer and mango chile sauces. While the team typically creates menus around an event theme or the demographic of a public event, the light, gluten free bowl isn’t going away. Since Hurricane Irma swept through in September, TOTB has donated a percentage of their Hurricane Bowl and conch fritter sales to the Red Cross. Most recently, Hurricane Maria caused complete devastation in Puerto Rico. Though the pair is still researching the organization to gift with a monetary donation, a percentage of the proceeds from Street Surfer sales at Hyde Park Village’s Fall Festival will go to Puerto Rico relief efforts. They shared their awareness this way: “Places we love to visit are homes to millions of people who are literally rebuilding their homes and creating a new norm—in climates that aren’t overly forgiving.” They know it could just as easily be them needing the help.

Weathering the Storm

As a thriving catering company, Tastes of Tampa Bay had many events scheduled in the weeks both before and after Irma. While nothing was cancelled, events as far as two weeks after the storm were rescheduled. One event, a destination wedding, was a nonnegotiable. Taking place the Friday before Irma touched down in our area, the couple and their guests flew in earlier that week. Coming from New York, they were committed to the nuptials—TOTB was committed, too. “Our team was completely on board and executed as we would any other event, even if our minds were elsewhere,” shared Jake. Regrettably, a number of guests weren’t able to make it because of Irma’s impact on travel. While the wedding was an overall success, the business partners know that a major storm could affect their main facilities and their supply chain. Relying heavily on local and fresh ingredients, they expressed: “We are still waiting to hear if some local farm partners will have delays in their harvest season due to the storms and major rain. A busy event season has been made bit more hectic.”


Tastes of Tampa Bay’s freshness and quality have contributed to its success and plans for expansion. In light of recent natural disasters, however, their expansion plans have shifted. As much as they would like to plant roots on the water, they now know the importance of considering a property’s flood zone, adherence to building codes, and whether or not there are generators. Disaster protocols are an important thing for all business owners to create, regardless of how sturdy the building: “Our disaster protocol is on a case by case basis. Since we operate out of multiple locations, we have options on where to store key pieces of equipment, supplies, and food.” Waiting until our area is in the cone of uncertainty is not the time to create a protocol. Preparedness is an essential ingredient.

Stay Connected

Tastes of Tampa Bay is active on social media. Follow their Facebook page and keep up with Street Surfer’s whereabouts on Twitter. There, you can get sneak peeks at menu items and learn about their ongoing, charitable giving. You’ll learn more about how the TOTB team is helping organizations that get loaded with relief work: “We do things like supply volunteers with food.” Beyond their dedication to outstanding food and service, it’s clear that Tastes of Tampa Bay is dedicated to both #HelpingOurCity and regions beyond it. We applaud their hard work, preparedness, and social responsibility.


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This post was written by Elevate, Inc.

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