The Power of Food: How Cooking Can Bring A Community Together for a Good Cause

by TheSpot

It’s no secret that Philadelphia is known as a superlative city for dining.  North to South, Fishtown, and reaching far into the counties, our restaurant scene rivals New York and other nouveau foodie towns.  Our diversity from Armenian, Cuban, to French and Italian, is a rainbow of gustatory feasts. We spoke to local Chef Maria Campbell, Founder of Cooks Who Care, on how she is using the power of food and dining to bring mental health awareness to our region.

As the Philadelphia dining scene was growing and evolving in recent years, Scott and Maria Campbell, a husband and wife team, founded the organization six years ago as a vehicle to better serve the restaurant community.  Both chefs by trade, they began their not-for-profit organization initially as a resource to help industry professionals achieve basic health needs. 

Through qualitative research, in addition to creating a YouTube channel of over 100 conversations, the couple found a pattern that the very people taking great care to prepare our optimal dining experiences, were neglecting their own health and well-being.  Their research indicated that health, particularly mental health, was at the center of burnout and other challenges. We spoke to Maria at length about how mental health awareness evolved over the years and more specifically after the era of Covid-19. 

It must be aforementioned that Maria is a strong advocate in brining mental health awareness front and center of conversation.  Maria is full of insights and puts the work in everyday to bring forth this awareness. According to Maria, as with mental health awareness in general terms, industry professionals lacked the proper language to describe their internal battles.  That is to say, chefs, servers, bartenders, etc. were reluctant most of the time to admit any suffering and internalized any mental challenge they were experiencing.  Maria and her husband Scott looked for a way to change that.

Maria Campbell Founder of Cooks Who Care

Maria cites a couple of events that prompted more openness about mental health and suffering.  One was the death of celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain.  It was then she began receiving messages thanking her for her work.  The second event was when Covid-19 came about.  Essentially the restaurant community ceased worldwide.  During this time, industry personnel began to feel empowered to express feelings of anxiety and depression.  As Maria described, there was now language to better define mental health awareness but more importantly to say that it was okay not to be okay.

Perhaps for the first time, these challenges although difficult were being heard and addressed as well give those suffering a safe space.  Maria believes a lot of good came about pertaining to working conditions and health and well-being on the job.  As Maria says, “Covid allowed permission to have a life.”  She believes that today the working model has changed the industry at large.  Examples including better working hours and increased health benefits. 

Maria and Scott are working to set up mini grants to fund mental healthcare.  The Campbells also put out Cooks Who Care Cook Book of 500 limited editions printed which 100% of the proceeds are towards the fund.   Maria also set up a series of special events entitled “Break the Ice Nights.”  Participating restaurants are allocating a portion of the proceeds towards the grants that Maria and Scott are hoping to procure.   

The Spot recently spent a “Break the Ice Night” at Oloroso, a Townsend Wentz owned restaurant, in the heart of Center City Philadelphia.  Specializing in Spanish tapas such as croquetas and grilled octopus, it was an excellent way of being introduced to a restaurant while supporting a good cause.  Maria stated how thrilled she is by how the restaurants are rallying together to participate in these events and the amazing support they have received.


As we talked, savored our plates, sipped on hearty red wines from Portugal, and even struck up a conversation with a stranger, it was an experience that served as a reminder that community and conversation is alive and well in the City of Brotherly Love. 

For more information on how to support this good cause, visit  The Campbells are also holding a fundraiser raffle tto reach their financial goal of $15k.  The drawing is on March 30th so there is time to donate at Lastly, for a free sample of Cooks Who Care Cook Book, sign up for our newsletter today!  Hurry as it is available in limited supply.

We will continue to follow Maria and Scott Campbell and more events are in the works.  The Philly dining scene is lively and thriving and if there is one thing we do best, it is to raise our glasses to support our communities.