Hope Breakfast owner feeding earthquake survivors, relief workers in Turkey

Two people sit in a van.
Twin Cities chef Brian Ingram, left, in a van full of supplies he bought in Istanbul for a mobile kitchen he's setting up in the earthquake zone in Turkey. He said the devastation moved him to buy a ticket and fly to Turkey to do what he could to help.
Courtesy of Brian Ingram

Updated: 11:40 a.m.

Twin Cities chef Brian Ingram said he knew what he had to do when he saw the devastation from last week’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria. 

He bought a plane ticket and went there to help.

Ingram and his wife, Sarah, run Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Paul and St. Louis Park, The Gnome Craft Pub in St. Paul and The Apostle Supper Club in St. Paul and Duluth. Sarah Ingram stayed behind to run the business, and Brian landed in Istanbul a couple days ago and got to work.

A van full of food, water bottles and supplies.
Some of the food and supplies packed into a rental van by Twin Cities chef Brian Ingram, who flew to Turkey to help feed earthquake victims and relief workers.
Courtesy of Brian Ingram

“We came out here a couple of years ago with our church to help with a cafe in Istanbul. And we just fell in love with the country and the people here,” Ingram said in an interview Tuesday as he drove through Turkey. “So as soon as we heard about the earthquake, we started making plans to get over here and figure out what we could do to help feed all the folks that have been displaced.”

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What he could do: head to food, equipment and hardware stores in Istanbul and buy, buy, buy.

He brought one of his workers, a logistics expert, and hooked up with others he knew in Turkey. He and his team filled carts full of beans, onions, and other non-perishables, picked up tents and water hoses and cooking utensils, and then rented a van to put it all in. 

A shopping center with a check out full of supplies.
A crew of Minnesotans flew with chef Brian Ingram to Istanbul, where they swept through food markets and equipment supply stores to pack a truck with supplies for earthquake relief. This is one of their carts at an Istanbul checkout.
Courtesy of Brian Ingram

“We literally destroyed an Enterprise rent-a-van,” he said. He and his helpers took “all the seats out of it for food and supplies... It's pretty claustrophobic, food and supplies to the roof and gosh, propane tanks and generators, everything strapped anywhere and everywhere.” 

Ingram and the crew spent Tuesday driving south from Istanbul to the Turkish province of Hatay, on the Mediterranean coast and on the Syrian border.

In an interview by phone, he said the effort isn’t as impulsive as it might initially appear. He said River Valley Church in Minnesota has connections with a congregation in Turkey, and that Turkish authorities are requiring relief efforts to have a local sponsor, so there is some semblance of order to the effort.

A site with tents and people gathering.
Twin Cities chef Brian Ingram sent this photo of his arrival at a Turkish city near the Syrian border, where he is planning to set up a mobile kitchen to feed earthquake survivors and relief workers. He said his church, River Valley Church, has a long-standing connection in the area and helped get approval for he and his team from Minnesota to travel to the earthquake zone to help.
Courtesy of Brian Ingram

“The biggest thing is being able to be self-sufficient,” Ingram said, “where you're not putting strains limited resources. Right now, there’s such a desperate need for food for even just the workers, the sheer amount of relief workers that are here, as well as the community that's suffering.”

He told MPR News’ Minnesota Now that he’d rounded up the supplies and got the equipment to set up a mobile kitchen, but it didn’t work out. He wound up donating everything to a local church, where the pastors were killed in the earthquake.

"We just jumped back in the car,” he told Minnesota Now host Cathy Wurzer. “We're going to... start game planning again, what our next steps is and how we can keep this kitchen going long term and restock supplies and with personnel to run it.”

For now, he says he’s largely self-funding the effort. His wife, Sarah, is holding down the fort at home, where their Purpose Restaurant Group employs about 250 people. They also have a food-related charity associated with the business, Give Hope, and they’ve gotten about $10,000 in donations so far to help with the Turkish relief efforts. 

Ingram says donations on the website will help keep the effort going.