Honoring kitchen workers, helping the environment

South Philly artist Gail Kotel (left) painted a portrait of a worker named Diane at High Street Provisions in University City.

A South Philly artist has launched a collaboration with Cooks Who Care to show appreciation to restaurant workers while protecting the environment.

Gail Kotel, who has led her own physical therapy practice at Therapeutic Pilates at 1536 Catharine St. for 20 years, has created portrait artwork using takeout containers to portray small business owners and support struggling restaurants during the pandemic. 

Over the last year, Kotel has shifted her attention to behind-the-scenes restaurant workers who are in short supply as establishments struggle to fill serving and kitchen positions. 

Kotel is painting kitchen workers on the restaurant’s own plates to display. She calls attention to the environmental impact with the continued use of plastic and aluminum, since some restaurants still can’t hire or afford the staff to use proper cutlery, glassware and dishes. 

In celebration of Earth Day, Kotel launched a partnership with Cooks Who Care to connect with more restaurants and spread awareness of the project. 

“As a found object portrait artist, I am passionate about increasing awareness of environmental waste by using materials that most people overlook and throw away,” Kotel said. “Earth Day is an important time to reflect on what we all need to do to protect our planet. I intend to continue building community through my art and supporting restaurants and kitchen staff that are struggling and need our support.”