“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.
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.
Above 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!”Busily preparing the 800 burgers being served today.Kevin, 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.”
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:
- “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
- “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
- “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
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.
An instructor reviews the knife skills covered earlier in the Kitchen of Champions program.
The 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.
Last Thursday, June 20th, Kitchen of Champions Cohort 35 graduated from the St. Vincent de Paul’s intensive culinary program.
The 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.”
“They gave me an opportunity to make a change in my life.” – Rodney Lewis
Congratulations Cohort 35!
The cohort has been cooking meals in the Dining Room since week one, so at this point they are pros! Today’s main dish is Chicken and Corn Chowder. Below Chef Dorsey gives the trainees in charge of the soup advice on seasoning.
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.
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!”
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:
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.
On April 21st, we said goodbye to Kitchen of Champions Cohort 34.They dedicated themselves to everyday of their 12 intense weeks of culinary training and did it with a smile.
Lexie 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!