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In a move that would make the late Anthony Bourdain proud, the team at Full Frontal With Samantha Bee is raising awareness and funds for immigrant workers in the restaurant industry. The “Thank You” campaign was launched on Wednesday, along with a field piece that sees Sam Bee mix a Top Chef audition in with her altruism.

Bee traveled to South Philly Barbacoa to speak with chef Cristina Martinez, who made her way up from dishwasher to owner of one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in the area. Martinez is also an undocumented immigrant, who left her native Toluca, Mexico to escape an abusive ex-husband. The charming and talented Martinez has become an advocate for undocumented workers everywhere, especially the ones who ensure there’s food on tables across the country. “We, as chefs, have a direct platform that is so big,” Martinez tells Bee. “We would not be able to be chefs without farmers, people who clean, busboys, waiters, bartenders.”


Top Chef host and judge Padma Lakshmi also joined Bee in the kitchen, though the late-night host wasn’t able to whip up anything as delicious as barbacoa once she was flying solo. But Lakshmi echoes Martinez’s sentiments about standing up for the members of this invisible labor force, who are “afraid to speak up, but everybody has the right to be treated in a dignified manner.” Of all Americans, Lakshmi says, “We just want to work hard. We all have a responsibility to reach down and pull up the people who really break their back for you, day in and day out.”

In addition to spotlighting The Giving Kitchen’s ongoing efforts to support those in the hospitality industry, Full Frontal is also raising money via sales of this “Thank You” T-shirt. Bee is also standing by her promise to invest in Puerto Rico’s infrastructure—just like the Great American Puerto Rico* Special tees, these shirts are made by our island neighbor. 

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