Maari Cedar James is the president of Chowgirls Killer Catering, a full-service catering and events company in NE Minneapolis that serves scratch-made food with regional and organic ingredients and top-notch service since 2006. On March 15, 2020, Chowgirls fully converted its headquarters to the flagship production space for Minnesota Central Kitchen. This new program is a partnership between Second Harvest Heartland, Loaves & Fishes, and Chowgirls to serve freshly prepared meals from excess food to those in need in direct response to COVID-19 in MN.
As of today, MCK as a group, now operating out of more than 12 kitchens, has surpassed the 1.5 million meal mark. In order to maintain safety throughout the pandemic, the Chowgirls team put in place strict screening, guest and worker entry, and exit and building-wide sanitation procedures, which were widely shared as best practices by the City of Minneapolis and other groups.
In April 2020, Maari co-founded the Minnesota Events Coalition in order to bring the MN live events community together around common best practices for health and safety in gathering and navigating effects on the hospitality industry amidst COVID-19. The months of constant change and operation, under peak stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushed her to imagine innovative ways to leverage the hospitality industry’s expertise to address pressing problems of the moment including human sustainability, health, respect in hospitality, food insecurity, and racial and climate justice.