After a devastating fire, the team at Chops Lobster Bar wanted to give back.
One night In January earlier this year, diners evacuated from the Buckhead eatery because of a fire that started around 10 p.m. At the time, WSB-TV reported that the fire began inside a hood vent, and was bad enough firefighters needed to call a second alarm to put it out.
Executive Chef Ryan Delesandro was there that Friday night and found the fire. He said he noticed an unusual amount of smoke coming from the kitchen’s hood system. When he went outside and looked up, black smoke was rising out of the roof. He investigated further, and found the fire in the hood system itself.
“I went downstairs and told the cooks, shut it down, everyone out,” Delesandro said. “About the time we were getting ready to verbally evacuate the building and the dining room, the fire alarm went off.”
Everyone made it out safe, but the damage was done. A few months after the fire, Buckhead Life Restaurant group, Chops’ parent company, filed a permit to restore and remodel the restaurant. From the date of the fire to re-opening in September, employees were able to work at other restaurants, and Delesandro and Chops General Manager Kevin Brown would make the rounds to check on their team. About a month before the reopening, the team got back together to discuss coming back, new menu items, and the restaurant’s new expansion.
“We started from the ground up,” said Delesandro, who has been at Chops for 10 years and with Buckhead Life Restaurant Group for 19. “When I say from the ground up, I mean literally like opening a restaurant from scratch.”
But before Chops was able to reopen, the team was trying to figure out a way to thank the men and women of Firehouse 21 who helped them that night. The idea came during a weekly Tuesday meeting between management staff and the corporate team just weeks after the fire. But with everything going on, they weren’t able to make it a reality until recently.
On Nov. 9, the Chops made its way to the fire station. Delesandro brought the restaurant’s delicious menu right to the firefighters’ home – and just as he arrived, a call came in.
“They went and dealt with, I believe, a large brush fire … and came back hungry,” he said. “And they got fed.”
The firefighters enjoyed Chops’ 40 oz. porterhouse, 32 oz. double cut ribeyes, mashed potatoes, corn mash, creamed spinach, and wedge salad. For dessert, they had chocolate toffee crunch pie and New York style cheesecake.
Delesandro said he recognized some of the firefighters who helped combat the fire, and was happy to do whatever he could to thank them.
“It’s always great to give back to those that give to the community,” he said. “They were more appreciative to us than we could ever be for what they do, which was very humbling.”