Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic changed innumerable lives, the food-service industry was hit especially hard. Out of all of the jobs lost throughout the nation in March 2020, restaurant and bar positions accounted for more than half — about 417,000 jobs lost, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s March 2020 report.
Gene and Lou Turner, partners and veterans of the food-service industry, were part of those statistics.
Both were laid off after the pandemic began, but they decided to make the most of their situation with a new venture.
“We wanted people to be able to create and curate the same chef-quality meals that we were making at home during quarantine,” Lou tells CityBeat. Their goal was an accessible, luxury dining experience, and MOXY was born.
Though MOXY had its first pop-up in 2019 with Lou making cocktail-inspired pastries, the current model launched on Jan. 3. MOXY has various meal kit offerings, including a Thursday Pasta Kit that features two starters, sourdough focaccia and radicchio salad, a main dish — ricotta gnocchi, currently —and a dessert. Chai banana pudding has been a recent offering. There is also a Friday Family Meal, Weekend Box and Vegetarian Kit.
Lou, a rural Pennsylvania native, does most of the pastry and dessert making.
“It’s mostly food that both of us remember growing up and bringing some elegance to it,” Lou says.
Lou, 25, began her food service career at Eli’s BBQ, where she fell in love with cooking. She went on to work with Jose Salazar, the chef behind local restaurants Mita's, Salazar and Goose & Elder, for a few years and then began cocktail bartending.
Her partner Gene, 33, most notably worked at Boca for three years as the sous chef.
“It’s an extremely hard [area] to work in,” Lou says of the food-service industry. “I always found comfort in the chaos, but it’s a hard way to live.”
Currently, Lou and Gene run MOXY themselves.
“Gene wakes up around 5:30 a.m. and goes to the Incubator from 6 to 6, usually,” Lou says. The “incubator” she’s referring to is the Incubator Kitchen Collective in Newport, a local nonprofit organization that helps local food businesses hit the ground running. “I wake up around 9 or 10, do office work, and then I work on graphics.”
She then heads to her part-time job, and when she gets off at 11 p.m., she’ll go to the Incubator to make pastries until 5 a.m., a schedule that is a testament to their years in the service industry. Lou used to work 90 hours a week as a sous chef, but she wanted something different.
“I never got the opportunity to be a manager or a leader,” Lou says. “When you're young and you're female, it's so hard to get (those) jobs. I kind of just realized that it was going to get to the point where we would have to run our own stuff to move up. That there was no ceiling that I could reach anymore.”
Lou says that family member’s dog was named Moxy, which is where the name came from.
“It’s actually like a '60s term that means ‘women that have grit, women that have moxy,’” Lou told me. “We (want) to be the community mom, we (want) to be of and for the people.”