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ROCKY POINT, New York -- Since she was just 14 years old, Long Island's Madison Bender has worked in the restaurant industry.

A mere four years later, the now 18-year-old holds the impressive title of sous-chef - the second in command to the top chef - at the Maui Chop House in Rocky Point.

"I never thought I was going to get here because I waitressed, I bussed, I hosted," Bender said.

"I never saw myself ... getting the responsibility being like a sous-chef in the back of a kitchen."

As she learned from her various restaurant jobs, she attended Eastern Suffolk BOCES Edward J. Milliken Technical Center and studied culinary arts.

"I found my passion for cooking at a really young age," Bender said. "My teachers really inspired me."

In June 2020, she graduated and started to work her way to the top of the kitchen.

John Louis, the head chef and owner of the Maui Chop House, found Bender when she came in for an interview. She was recommended by his restaurant manager, who was one of her teachers at Rocky Point High School.

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"I have two young daughters, so I'm a big proponent of empowering young females and just young professionals in general," Louis said. "Working with her watching her grow, watching her mature, and watching her hit it out of the park, it's great. It's going very well."

Bender also juggles the responsibilities of being a full-time student at Suffolk County Community College, where she is studying education. Bender hopes to follow in her boss' footsteps and own her very own restaurant one day.

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"I just encourage all owners and chefs to really open their minds and listen to the younger generation," Louis said. "They have great ideas, they have great energy, and you find the right one and you can hit a home run."


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The controversy after the rise of ghost kitchens in Madrid

The pandemic has brought with it in cities like Madrid the proliferation of “ghost kitchens”, dedicated exclusively to food delivery, a recent business with diffuse limits that also causes complaints from neighbors due to noise, smells and the hustle and bustle of delivery men.

On the ground floor of a neighborhood block in Madrid’s Prosperidad neighborhood, building 38 “ghost kitchens” and a seven-story industrial fireplace that crowns your patio and the views from your windows.

The noise, the smells, the bustle of the delivery men and the accumulation of waste are the main fears of the residents of Zabaleta, Cartagena, Canillas and Quintiliano streets, who see a business emerging under their houses involved in the controversy that, in this case, will start working in March.

“I don’t know how this can be authorized. It’s nonsense“says José Luis, a resident of Canillas Street, who from the window of one of his bedrooms can almost touch the fireplace that emerges in the patio of his house.

Assume that during the summer won’t be able to open the windows from your house because of the noise, the odors and the impregnation of the oils that this fireplace will expel and what “angers” you the most is that they are going to take away a very important thing in your life: tranquility.

According to José Luis, the decision to implement these “ghost kitchens” took place on March 13, in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic, during a meeting of the neighborhood community that approved by majority.

Among those who voted in favor is the owner of the ground floor, who has several homes in the building, but a good part of the neighbors He opposed, like José Luis.

The president of the Valle Inclán Neighborhood Association, Félix Arias, an architect specialized in urban planning, estimates that this business promoted by the Cooklane company will deliver an average of 6,000 meals a day.

He criticizes that this type of project (known by other names such as dark kitchen, blind kitchen, delivery-only or digital restaurant) are framed within a “outdated” legislation: the General Urban Development Plan, approved and in force since 1997.

An activity that does not fit with the regulations

The municipal group of Más Madrid denounces that it is “a new activity that does not quite fit with the regulations in force, straddling the catering services, although without bars or tables, and the food industry “.

For this reason, it recently presented in the plenary session of the Madrid City Council a proposal for modify the General Urban Planning Plan which was denied by the PP, Cs and Vox.

Municipal sources in the Urban Planning area have explained that they deliver the building license for build “ghost kitchens” because the projects comply with current regulations for industrial use, which is where this activity is currently framed.

However, the same sources add that in collaboration with the Activities Agency they will require in the authorization procedures of these activities a study of mobility and its effect on the environment and will require the provision of loading and unloading places.

For its part, the College of Property Administrators of Madrid (CAFMadrid) warns that “ghost kitchens” cannot be installed in a normal home because they are considered Industrial kitchens, with powers and characteristics that do not resemble a home kitchen.

“In this sense, the adaptation of a premises for this use requires the execution of works to adapt it to current regulations for this activity. The license would not be for a restaurant, since it is not a public service with a food area, but rather the entire premises would be considered a kitchen because it is intended for the treatment and preparation of food, in this case of large dimensions, “he explains.

The president of the Cuatro Caminos-Tetuán Neighborhood Association, Antonio Granero, in Madrid capital, has detected for the moment six concentrations of this type of kitchen, several of them on the ground floor of residential buildings.

“The hustle and bustle of motorcycles is constant and smells permeate all the houses,” he says about Araucaria Street, where they have been installed. eight “ghost kitchens” under a block of flats.

FoodCraft operates here, a restaurant that only exists on ordering platforms, which began its journey at the beginning of September and decided to approach this type of business due to “its low price“compared to a common restaurant.

“You have to understand that it is a new type of business and, like everything new, at first it scares and is not well understood but this will be in our lives and it will have to be the administrations that regulate and establish what the limits of ghost kitchens are, “he defends.

In the same way is pronounced Christian Lucco, from Madrid Ghost Kitchens, who offers rental spaces with kitchen for these businesses, which denies that they are obscure.

He assures that, as in all sectors, there are companies that “do it well and others badly” but each blind kitchen that opens passes a series of processes so that “everything is in order”.

“Ghost kitchens are not an enemy, they are a complement to the hospitality industry traditional and you have to get used to them because they have come to stay, “he says.

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