Most chefs rode out the holiday season in a whirlwind of special menus, private events, and service with a packed house. Tim Archuleta, who helms the kitchen at San Francisco’s beloved ICHI Sushi, spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital due to a major surgery and significant health scare.
He and his wife Erin, who co-founded ICHI, realized quickly that Tim’s long recovery and physical limitations meant they wouldn’t be able to keep the restaurant in its large current space. Now, they’re returning to their roots: ICHI’s original location, a 21-seat spot they’ve been operating as an oyster bar and for pop-ups since moving a few years ago.
“It’s funny, because we kept that space with the intention of creating a lunch spot,” says Erin. “Now we’re able to do ICHI as lunch and dinner — it’s kind of a sweet story.”
A month in the hospital — combined with what’s a essentially a new restaurant opening — gets expensive. Leaders in the San Francisco restaurant industry have banded together to support ICHI and the Archuletas, starting a GoFundMe campaign “to support friends who wouldn’t ask themselves,” as the page reads. Additionally, some of the city’s best restaurants — flour + water, Trestle, Tosca, Waterbar, and many more — are partnering on a ticketed tasting event with the goal of raising $10,000 for Team ICHI.
“I’ve known Erin for quite a while, and she and Tim have always been so generous with their time and support,” says Ryan Cole of the Hi Neighbor group, which owns Stones Throw, Fat Angel, Trestle, and Corridor. “Everybody knows how hard it is right now to keep up the day-to-day of the restaurant business, with closures and the down economy — this really hits home.”
Erin credits Ryan and the rest of the San Francisco restaurant community for taking the lead on fundraising — “something I never would have done myself,” she says. He reached out to her with the idea for the tasting event, Erin came up with a list of friends in the industry, and every single person agreed to participate without hesitation.
“It was immediate,” says Ryan. “Some people are doing stations, some are helping secure permits, some are helping with the bar, but everyone’s done something.” He adds of Erin and Tim: “They have that impact on people. They’re so philanthropic in their own right; now it’s time for someone to do that for them.”
“In a time when everyone is questioning the validity of the restaurant industry, I’m here to say that this industry is as tight-knit and kind and warm as ever,” says Erin. “This is why San Francisco is a world-class restaurant city: we’re a collaborative community, and when one of us is down we’re all together.”
Happily, Tim was out of the hospital in time for New Year’s Eve, the team’s final night of service in their current space. It was a record-breaking evening for them, demonstrating just how much love exists within their professional and personal communities. This past weekend they opened up their smaller space to friends and family for their first service. “It felt like we were back home — like we had never left.”
Erin adds: “Tim and I have so much gratitude for all of the care and hospitality everyone has showed, and we can’t wait to return the love.”