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CEO and founder of Carroll’s Kitchen, Matittuck resident Ryan Carroll serves hot meals to locals in need. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Carroll)

Sometimes, you’ve got to believe there are no coincidences. February 17 was Random Acts of Kindness Day, and although it could be argued the amount of trendy, made-up holidays is pretty healthy these days, this is one that we can totally get behind.

One of the East End’s lesser known facts is that food insecurity is indeed a thing. While Carroll’s Kitchen Long Island — the grassroots, nonprofit brainchild of private chef and Mattituck resident Ryan Carroll — was born from the COVID-19 pandemic, the intent of the organization, both specific and simple, is anything but random.

Originally, Carroll would utilize the kitchens of local restaurants to prepare meals his nonprofit distributes. (Photo courtesy of Carroll’s Kitchen)

With a mission to provide and deliver cooked, well-balanced meals across Long Island, Carroll uses what he calls a “Robin Hood business model,” where he sells food to the public to help raise money for thousands of people in need. He uses his catering company, Carroll’s Catering, to sell the food, specializing in dinner parties and offering customized menus for dining experiences that start at $150 per person, requiring a miniumum of two guests. A portion of the money earned goes to his efforts for preparing and delivering meals to the eldery, veterans and those experiencing food insecurity across the island.

“He’s essentially using the catering business to fund the nonprofit,” says Chateau Butler, who serves as treasurer for the organization.

Since its inception in 2020, Carroll’s Kitchen has fed over 800,000 people. While it doesn’t have a brick and mortar location, Carroll and his team use local commercial kitchens for food preparation, with a commissary kitchen in Sayville and an emergency food pantry in Mastic.

He and his team have employed commercial kitchens across both the South and North forks, initially using the kitchens of restaurants that were closed because of Covid, and lately utilizing Terry Pizza in Cutchogue, a commissary kitchen in his hometown of Sayville, and the space at Mattituck Mushrooms, adjacent to where he lives. “I’m looking for a more permanent space,” he says.

When Carroll lost his job as a restaurant chef in New York City during the initial lockdown, he, like so many others, left the city and went back home. Due to the frightening and immediate uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, his grandmother, who had been residing in a local nursing home, came home, too. Fittingly, Carroll decided one day to make her a fresh chicken parmesan dinner, and while it seemed simple enough, procuring the items to prepare the meal proved pretty tough.

“There was literally nothing on the shelves in Stop & Shop, so I ended up doing a household grocery shop [at a ]restaurant depot,” he says with a chuckle. “I literally left with 40 pounds of chicken.”

Local organizations like the Kiwanis Club have embraced Carroll’s fork-feeding not-for-profit. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Carroll)

The idea came to him quickly. “I wanted to make a chicken parm for my grandma, but I thought ‘I can make chicken parm for 150 grandmas.” So, he did. After spending about $750 on to-go containers, a handful of 50-gallon stock pots, and a few more food items, Carroll assembled a team of about 30 other out-of-work restaurant professionals and formed Carroll’s Kitchen in Bellmore.

“I think I started at 4 a.m. that first day,” he says, “and I made my last delivery just before midnight.”

Lately, Carroll and his team have led several campaigns to provide food to the masses. He partnered with the Bellmore Kiwanis Club this past Thanksgiving and hosted a massive meal distribution (15,000 meals) with the help of over a hundred volunteers. The day before this year’s Super Bowl he and his team were smoking brisket and ribs at Freedom Jiu Jitsu in Patchogue, where veterans ate for free.  This past Sunday, Carroll and his catering crew were at KK’s the Farm in Southold for a pig roast that clocked in at $20 a plate. “Easter’s next,” he says. “We’ll probably do roasted ham.”

Some things are just meant to be.

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