Washington — A New York restaurant known for its sophisticated mix of international dishes has an unusual history, one that inspires it to take care of its customers and its workers.
The restaurant was founded by surviving employees of the Windows on the World restaurant, which was located in the World Trade Center and destroyed by the attacks of September 11, 2001. Determined to carry on, surviving restaurant staffers banded together as business owners to create a new restaurant whose global cuisine reflects its diverse workforce. Called Colors, the restaurant opened in 2006 at 417 Lafayette Street.
According to Colors’ website, the restaurant strives to introduce “exciting new flavors that change with the seasons.” Sekou Siby, the restaurant’s financial and chief operating officer, who is from Côte d’Ivoire, said the restaurant is staffed by workers from Mexico, the Philippines, Guyana and the United States. “Global flavor” remains the restaurant’s guiding philosophy, he said.
Ten years after the September 11 attacks, Colors “is still run as a cooperative” dedicated to offering good working conditions and career mobility for its staffers, Siby said.
Colors was created by newly unemployed workers determined to get back to work, and its staff is committed to helping a fresh crop of job seekers. Colors offers lunch from Wednesday through Friday and dinner every night except Monday. “But the restaurant is also used during the day as a training center for low-income individuals,” Siby said. “We’ve been working with another organization, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, that rents this space to train people in table service, cooking and other restaurant-related skills. This is one of the things that has helped the restaurant survive.”
Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, a nonprofit group, was founded in April 2002 to support restaurant workers displaced from the World Trade Center as a result of the September 11 tragedy. It has expanded to advocate for improved working conditions for restaurant workers citywide and to train those seeking employment in restaurants.
Siby, who serves as co-director of the nonprofit group while also handling his responsibilities at the restaurant, said that some trainees are hired by Colors when they complete their training, while others find jobs at other restaurants.
While taking pride in their history and their mission to help others, Colors staffers never lose sight of the restaurant’s primary attraction: its cuisine. “At the end of the day, it’s about great service and great food,” Siby said. “People may like the concept [of the restaurant], but if the dining experience is not satisfactory, people will not come back.”