Water for Chocolate, the Upper Fells Point eatery known for its southern comfort food, suffered a fire last Friday in which the restaurant and the apartment of head chef Sean Guy were badly damaged.
While Guy was out food shopping Friday morning, he received several Twitter messages and pictures that his business and residence was up in flames. Fortunately, his two children were in school but tragically his three-year-old pug, Dirty Rice, didn’t make it.
“He was a cool dude,” Guy says of Dirty Rice. “Everyone in the neighborhood knew him.”
The damage to the building was extensive, due to the fire that was started by a gas dryer on the third floor, but also due to flooding from the fire department’s efforts to put it out.
“I was numb when it first happened,” Guy says. “I’m usually, like, the most proactive guy, but I really didn’t know what to do next.”
Within hours, the local community sprang to action. A frequent Water for Chocolate customer, Scotty D.M. Schopman, created a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $10,000 in donations.
Additionally, other residents brought Guy care packages, Lombard Hardware offered a gift card for rehabilitation efforts, and a local couple is even hosting Guy at their house in the neighborhood.
“I’m getting so much support from so many different factors. It’s just overwhelming, on a totally different level,” Guy says. “Initially, between Friday and Sunday, I was depressed. But right now I’m really elated from all the love.”
The overwhelming response has also led to two fundraising events planned in the coming weeks. The first is taking place Thursday, April 2, at Hot Tomatoes II from 6 p.m.-close. Guy will be in the kitchen cooking some of Water for Chocolate’s signature dishes and all the proceeds will go to rebuilding. The next event is a week later, April 9, at Bad Decisions.
Guy says the money he has received from the community will go to replacing the damaged floors, walls, and kitchen equipment. He also plans to update the interior to give the space “a more industrial feel.”
Optimistically, and with the help of an understanding insurance adjuster, he hopes to have Water for Chocolate, which has been in business for nine years, back up and running a month from now. He, of course, is counting his blessings that the fire’s toll wasn’t much worse.
“I’m a father before I’m a chef, before anything,” he says. “My daughter is a sophomore at BSA and my original plan was, when she graduated, to move to New York City and open something up. But with all the love Baltimore has given me, it makes no sense to do that. I am here to stay.”