Muncheez was the hottest hangout in town before Haiti’s deadly earthquake, and in a way, it still is. The restaurant used to serve pizza and subs to an upscale crowd in the suburb of Petionville — just outside Port-au-Prince. Now it serves up food to any earthquake victim in need – free of charge.
“I’m not open for business. I’m just trying to feed as many people as I can,” said Haitian-American owner Cliff Rouzeau, who was born in America and raised in Port-au-Prince. “We are all human beings. We were blessed to not be in the building like that. So we figured we’d share our blessings and try to help out as many people as we can.”
On the day theGrio visited, there was already a massive line of people forming outside the restaurant about an hour before food was to be served. The owners of the restaurant expected up to 3,000 people.
Rouzeau owns and operates two other Muncheez restaurants in and around Port-au-Prince while splitting his time between Miami and Haiti. After the earthquake, he shut down the other restaurant locations and brought their food stocks here. He plans to stay in Haiti for a while.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay and help as long as I can,” Rouzeau said.
The restaurant isn’t a formal aid organization, but they’re using an organized system to distribute the food. It all starts with little pink bracelets.
Rouzeau explains: “It was bracelets that we usually use for carnival. [We] had about 10,000 bracelets. So what we do [is] we give the people the bracelets, they come out to the main entrance and we give them the food upstairs. We got volunteers, which are too many to name. The people get the food and their drink and they walk through the exit door.”
Most of the people receiving the food would never come here under normal circumstances. One woman on the food line says it’s because the restaurant normally costs money, and if you can’t pay, you can’t eat there.
There’s another first for these locals — the food is prepared by a professional French chef, Christophe Riffaud, who is also volunteering his time.
“I was only in Haiti three weeks working at a hotel called The Oasis when the catastrophe hit. Naturally I wanted to lend a hand,” Riffaud said.
For the victims of Haiti’s earthquake, it’s a hand that is very much appreciated.