“What’s the most important thing you learn in the Kitchen of Champions Program?” I asked Wayne who was in the back cutting sweet potatoes while the rest of the cohort busily prepared pork ragu, garlic bread, roasted veggies and cranberry OJ for the St. Vincent de Paul’s free dining room.

admpNEh3BpeqLf0ykfYP5ugCkJbpXL1tMIcFrCyY2QdHkMwz-skrGVvDdZxAGp-5qw=w1600“Working as a team and dealing with the fast-pace environment,” he answered. “You only have 2.5 hours” to cook for the hundreds of people served in the Dining Room each day, “so you have to be fast.” That’s why Wayne is prepping for the next day’s meal. Below is the team’s finished product!



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.”

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.


“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

Cooking For the SVdP Dining Room

One of the ways that Kitchen of Champions’ Trainees get real-world culinary practice is working under Chef Dorsey to help prepare the meals served in the SVdP Free Dining Room.

The cohort has been cooking meals in the Dining Room since week one, so at this point they are pros! QueToday’s main dish is Chicken and Corn Chowder. Below Chef Dorsey gives the trainees in charge of the soup advice on seasoning.

chefgivingadvice The Soup Team (pictured below) explained to me that they started the soup with a Béchemel sauce, one of the five mother sauces. This simple fact connects their classroom work to the kitchen with ease.

soupteamThe Production Manager and Assistant Production Manager (pictured below) are keeping everyone on schedule. They explain: “Everything needs to be ready at 10:30am!”

productionmanager&assistnatAnd not only was the food ready at 10:30am but, as the Soup Team said, “it’s the bomb!”

Cooking for the Volunteer Appreciation Event

The trainees have been chopping, prepping, sauteing, and baking for the St. Vincent de Paul Volunteer Appreciation Event!

The menu prepared entirely by the Kitchen of Champions cohort was:
Seasonal Salad Bar with Fresh Accoutrements and House Made Dressings
Fresh Bread and Herb Whipped Butter
Herb Crusted Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream and Au Jus
Cavatappi Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce
Grilled Chicken with Garlic Roasted Baby Potatoes
Dessert Bar with Celebratory Cake

On Friday, the trainees were hard at work prepping. I asked the cohort what it was like to go from cooking a vegetarian meal the day before to learning how to prepare prime rib and they said “we learn something new every day!”

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Saturday, the trainees started in the kitchen at 8am to have everything ready for the big event at 4pm on April 27. Below is the crew serving the finished product:

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Kitchen of Champions Alumnae came back to help with the big event!  2013-04-28 02.26.59Dessert was my favorite part of the meal.  Crepes with homemade whipped cream and strawberries – Bon Appetit!

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Congrats, Louie!

Louie graduated from the Kitchen of Champions’ program in March 2013 and has already accepted a position with Brown Sugar Kitchen, one of the program’s many community partners. Congratulations Louie!


Louie is a great example of the many graduates of the Kitchen of Champions program who continue to keep in touch with us after they secure employment in their field. We encourage many of our culinary students to do, and they serve as examples to current students of the program’s potential.

Graduation – Congratulations Cohort 34!

On April 21st,  we said goodbye to Kitchen of Champions Cohort 34.2013-01-17 02.27.15They dedicated themselves to everyday of their 12 intense weeks of culinary training and did it with a smile.

2013-03-21 04.38.24Lexie is one of these talented and passionate graduates.  In the video below, she shares her experience in the Kitchen of Champions. Her  passion for cooking, dedication, and humble gratitude are shared among the entire class.

(taken at the March 2013 Guest Chef Event – read more about Guest Chef here)

Since its creation in 2007, over 300 students have enrolled in the Kitchen of Champions‘ program, and over 200 have graduated. Of the graduates, over 70% have found jobs. Congrats to Cohort 34 on becoming part of this prestigious group of Alumni/ae!