Graduation Invitation

Graduation for the 36th Cohort will take place on Thursday, September 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Dining Room, 675 23rd Street, Oakland, 94612. All are invited! We celebrate the achievements of our graduating Kitchen of Champions class, as well as our other job-training program, the Champion Workforce transitional employment program.

Our keynote speaker for this class will be Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, whose District 3 includes the West Oakland neighborhood that surrounds our Dining Room and Community Center.


Iron Chef!

The cohort’s last Cooking Matters class tests all their skills in a friendly competition – Iron Chef! The trainees split into teams, create a recipe, and cook it to perfection.

Below are the final entrees lined up.

TXh-gyvi9Ne5QJDsOIbV-tLgb23GjFyC_-TJrlUJJ80Curried cauliflower polenta:

5XQBc-fkp7RjLtgrBEJKhWbv9XmOEYk3GXgCbURpDhcBlack-eyed pea samosa with cucumber yogurt sauce:

v1x8bHVNzT15mktJ_maMz77YYGIKhRRc_NgpYdyR2RwGarlic noodles:

zlFrCmogQc5WwXVpzNX2Iy6UivNoPi7TuX2Z36a7oB0Grilled ratatouille:

F_jWBovSeY8DArPwhCMo3Qwf6R1poIFmHhOhZCMaotQSauteed shrimp with mango sauce:

P76CpR8CThR2oYdcxpaCyhIk_k3AryZ_44bgS2-g8XUVegetarian wheat lasagna: xqy_lxtv-Ts8_sYDT5FyZ8kl-aV8vs5kMt73nPU44fEThe trainees proudly present their dishes.

2J8jx_YYRr1VwtI6JrKchu96odsXLRtMAA_7BaJXO_0At the end, all the trainees received their Cooking Matters certificates of completion. A job well done. Congratulations!


The Daily Grind!

One of the ways that Kitchen of Champions’ Trainees get real-world culinary practice is by preparing the meals served in the SVdP Free Dining Room. The Dining Room serves nearly 800 meals per day and the cohort makes it possible!

On today’s menu: cheeseburgers with a house-made garlic aioli sauce, fries, veggies, and a tutti-fruitti dessert.

IMG_4886Above Carrie prepares the garlic aioli sauce. Carrie needed new job skills and heard about Kitchen of Champions from someone who knew the program and Carrie’s passion for cooking.  When asked if she felt like this was her future, she beamed: “This is it!”IMG_4899Busily preparing the 800 burgers being served today.IMG_4894Kevin, Millie and Heather taking a quick break from service, above. Millie (center) works in the food industry now and is hoping that the program will help advance her career.  Heather (right) and Kevin (left) are both parents who have worked multiple jobs to support their families. When asked how he works two jobs and does the Kitchen of Champions program as a single father, Kevin said, “Women inspire me. If they can do it, I can.”

More Than Culinary Talent

Kitchen of Champions does more than develop promising culinary talent, it prepares trainees for all aspects of the workplace.

IMG_4873The Kitchen of Champions Cohort attends weekly Job Club sessions with the Champion Workforce participants. These sessions focus on workplace readiness and range from reviewing workplace basics to practicing positive interviews. This week they reviewed resume building skills with Champion Workforce Coordinator Al Gargantilla.  The cohort’s positive attitude and energy are infectious!

Kitchen of Champions in the News!

The Kitchen of Champions was featured in the July 22nd Oakland Local article: “Kitchen of Champions program trains Oakland workers in culinary trades.” Here are my three favorite quotations from the piece:

  1. “I love to cook, period. I would cook everyday of my life if people would let me. I also like to serve people. I like to see them smile when they eat my food.” – Trainee Millicent Crossley
  2.  “I feel a lot more confidence in myself. My kids look at me when I come home, ‘Daddy’s a cook, he’s a chef.’ Family feels a lot better, and it’s boosted my energy level,” – Trainee Lorenzo Paige
  3. “One of the things I love about working with the program is the diversity of the people we serve…There are people changing careers, displaced, homeless and low income people. It’s a really deep range.” – Culinary Service Coordinator Nic Ming

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

After learning about nutrition from the 18 Reasons crew, the Cohort put their new knowledge into practice by preparing nutritious Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with guacamole and cabbage slaw.

yrIDdaDFd0BFkthLdV8ADjwgkd2A526X1g6TgADTCxUICUnceo4dcA0JkHRe5US6yA=w1600An instructor reviews the knife skills covered earlier in the Kitchen of Champions program.

6m1OHPINu2AhMI91iyLYmiu456awFAptozbsCoFtb0V8tu64fES8zvuk9jtXjD-q1g=w1600Going over the recipe for the cabbage slaw.

YIi9rxBqFRoj6ghZeEwbUZ24DMI1XilDF6VhwTp75HJSjeWG6bnLKv6c8lK0Y8YFxg=w1600My favorite part – the guacamole!

BliTiTsu8XcST1CyO_4PCzu7SX_2NtIviR7SvCKmMau7zGlRxi4e9OT-oFmUhChktw=w1600The finished cabbage slaw.

A56kw5ACPFQNlxnJzZNrnDkLm_D3Uc0NxJkZBghM-O_eDnPWLxvPShfd9qUx2bDqaA=w1600Time to taste.

52v0Jk9W1Odu_hmkKOyDm7mj1_JI1l9ZXm3O2tN7Rm6XK8Wi1bGjVhAmvOylC1ly0w=w1600The colorful and flavorful finished product! Thank you, 18 Reasons.

What We Cook Matters

Does boiling vegetables decrease their nutrition content? What vegetables have Vitamin A? How do I cook this funny looking vegetable? Last week our new cohort of Kitchen of Champions trainees learned the answers as they began Cooking Matters with the help of our community partner 18 reasons. 

JTR60DTg8uwJQMgl9mRanmJwNSEw7gjXCdKdsHcEFgw8A1H6NvQTxaxjzqUoHckW4A=w1600Cooking Matters is a national curriculum that teaches the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals. The curriculum is implemented with the help of volunteer culinary and nutrition experts, like the crew from 18 Reasons. 18 Reasons is a nonprofit that brings people together to deepen relationships to food and to create a just and sustainable food system.

uN6Jj0kWKdcilR3gTN2MOTzSX3_UW31iM4ftC6-2mCcToDci5ZWrCJzg4ni9OlOLnQ=w1600The crew from 18 Reasons will work with the Cohort several times during the program, so look forward to future posts!


“Invite me to your restaurants!” Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said to the Kitchen of Champions graduates, as she concluded her keynote address.

quanLast Thursday, June 20th, Kitchen of Champions Cohort 35 graduated from the St. Vincent de Paul’s intensive culinary program.

graduation1The packed room enjoyed a program with speakers: Mayor Jean Quan; Culinary Services Coordinator, Nic Ming; Executive Chef Instructor, Chef Robert Dorsey; and program Alumni. Stanley Wilkes Jr. (below) from Cohort 32 who now works in the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room said the experience “changed the course of my life.”

StanWilkesJrThe real treat was hearing from the 17 graduates themselves:

“They gave me an opportunity to make a change in my life.” – Rodney Lewis

marchant“Go out there and cook with love” – Salina Mares (below)

salina“They truly rescued me” – Deserie Martin

Congratulations Cohort 35!

graudationPhotos courtesy of Jose Montoya Photography

Artichokes Tournés

In the kitchen last week, the trainees learned how to cook artichokes tournés.

Chef Dorsey demonstrated for the cohort while reviewing everything from cooking technique, to time management, to the costs of ingredients and labor.

IMG_1005The trainees then prepared their own artichokes.

ImageThe stuffing included Swiss chard from the Kitchen of Champions Garden.

IMG_0980Chef Dorsey proudly displays the freshly picked chard (bottom left) before KOC trainee, Rodney, sautés it (below right).


ImageThe finished product!

Ecolab Discusses “Why Clean Matters”

Jay and Kevin from Ecolab stopped by the kitchen last week to talk to the cohort about the importance of sanitation in the kitchen.

They discussed Ecolab’s awareness campaign “Why Clean Matters.” The campaign’s goal is to share new research and insight from chefs and industry experts about the impact cleanliness has on restaurant performance.IMG_1031 Chef Dorsey told the trainees that his first job in the food service industry was washing dishes and impressed the importance of understanding all aspects of the kitchen from proper ice handling to putting the final touches on an entree.

Thank you Ecolab!