Heat of the Kitchen helps underserved youth realize their amazing value through active, professional practice. By cooking, cleaning and serving together, we connect in ways that last long after the dishes are done.
It is always busy this time of year, everyone is digging deep to finish off school with accomplishment. It is hard to stay intentional as opportunities fly around and distractions tempt all of us- all of the time, time, time.
But way back in January, we were meeting with Sheryl Davis, Director of the Human Rights Commission, who mentioned that Dr. Cornel West was going to be in town giving a lecture in April and that there might a be a pre-reception needing help.
We don’t cater. Cooking and eating and serving together is what we do, because of the lasting connection and self-value it builds. We want the full arc of experience for all of our students. But this was a different kind of opportunity.
And we are so glad we did it! The students made hundreds and hundreds of empanadas, prepped vegetables and sauces and the group of students who could come with us were happy to serve. And – bonus alert- we got to attend Dr. West’s lecture afterwards. It is rare to witness a speaker who is able to call out layers of injustice in a real way and still leave the audience invigorated and inspired. There is so much work to do and we need to do it.
In our rush, we again were hardly able to take pictures, but here is one of Chef Mariah with Dr. West. Thank you Dr. West, Director Davis & The Human Rights Commission for giving us this opportunity. We would cater for this one again!
Thursday lunch time mid-March. Scattered showers mirrored our morning sensibilities as we worked on something new: bringing our high school students into one of San Francisco’s best restaurants to serve lunch to 40 unfamiliar guests. Some might call this a culminating collaboration between education and industry. We were wondering as culinary teachers if maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew, so to speak. It is always that way before an event, isn’t it?
Our culinary class models itself on the best in a back of house restaurant situation most days, as we cook, eat and serve together in an 8-9 week time frame. This event brought it all to a new level in a wonderfully real way- with hospitality. True hospitality.
Laurence Jossel, one of the owners of NOPA often mentions the job requirements to work in his kitchen: you have to be nice, smart and hardworking – and out of those three? Nice is first and foremost. As a guest walking into NOPA, it is almost as if you’ve entered your friend’s (very nice) dining room. There is a clear sense of care and human-ness and value that is calming. And the people of NOPA have been there ready to help us whether it has been volunteering in our garden and classroom to supporting our students in our kitchen or theirs. So yes, the people at NOPA understand this true hospitality, in the front of house, the back of house and in the community.
Maybe this goes without saying, but it seems easier these days for people to just look at the service surface of hospitality without understanding the strength underneath. When you look up this word hospitality, the root is ghosti , one and the same for both guest and host. We are in it together.
There is a sense of ownership that happens when you serve the food you’ve made that you know is good, and we find ourselves, even our shyest selves, moving from not just “owning” the food we make to then wanting to share it with others. We hear students new to working an event say “I didn’t know it felt this good to serve people food” and “I loved it when they appreciated us.” Only hospitality can create that experience, this giving value to one another. Thank you NOPA for teaching and reaching our students with your care and hospitality.
The people of NOPA Restaurant do heartfelt work. As Laurence says, their employees are “nice, smart and hard working.” They truly are.
On Valentine’s Day NOPA closes their restaurants so the employees can take the time to volunteer throughout the City. For us that meant a group came and cleaned up our dormant garden (dormant thanks to a band of hungry 4 legged neighbors that we hope have moved on) to get ready to plant again.
And now we prepare for another generous involvement with NOPA. Our Long Table Dinner will morph into a Lunch at NOPA on Thursday March 15th, 1-2:30pm, in the middle of our March Fundraising Campaign. Tickets and more information will be available soon. We are totally excited!
Growth mindset? A lot of our students hadn’t heard this term. “You mean code switching?” Not really. It is more like a mental belief system, if that makes sense.
Yes, you can build your own inner thought structure. Teens normally give you pretty suspicious looks when you talk about this, but this quarter’s students were curious and one student was inspired enough to make this drawing.
I remember how shocked I was when I realized I could choose how I thought about something. Ask any baker, gardener, even avid walker or runner (or try this yourself) and you might also find that getting your hands busy in something helps uncover this ability and helps you step above that frenetic frontal lobe, much like a sea bird coasting over the ocean. The mind/body connection is stronger than we allow it to be. So my reminder this quarter to myself is when in doubt (or worry), to put down the screen and get my hands busy.
We are already in our 2nd quarter, with a new group of students and are they excited about this upcoming Long Table Dinner! Please join us on Thursday November 9th, 6-8pm for a delicious and heart warming meal.
Link to more information and tickets is hereor can be found by copying and pasting this into your browser:
Please reserve your tickets before prices go up or we sell out! We look forward to serving you.
Our first quarter is already done! Here are a few snippets of the ingredients in some of our newer projects this year. What makes these projects extra special is that they are using produce donated by two great organizations: SF Wholesale Produce (.org) and Bi-Rite Market.
Thanks to them, we’ve already served over 100 nourishing tastes!
As we start our 2nd quarter, we are thinking of all the farmers and families affected by the recent fires and are so grateful for what we have. Thank you Bi-Rite Market and SF Wholesale Produce!
It has been awhile. A lot has happened with events, garden work, graduation, even childbirth (congratulations Debbie and Chris!!!).
This isn’t the first time I’ve posted the skills and values our students identify at the beginning of each quarter, this set being from our most recent class. But it is a place of beginnings (most of us love fresh starts) and these again remind me of a few things.
First and foremost: students know what they need. Second, when I read these again, I am struck with how much these are skills and values that I want too, which is pretty heartwarming. It may not immediately create a common bond, but is a reminder that we are not that different from each other after all.
The hard part as the weeks progress (and it is only 8-9 weeks that we have together) is to sustain our values while keeping sight of our progress when challenges pop up.You’re having problems with friends or another teacher and aren’t in the mood to work, or you get distracted with others in class and miss some vitals in a recipe.
Any teen may not realize that this happens to all of us and in the workplace all the time. We all make mistakes and have off days. Sometimes what happens next are the best times in class, when we show our human-ness, responding to mistakes without getting personal or reactive (which are learned skills achieved only through practice). What could get charged up becomes an “oh” moment instead, not so bad, and the new understanding brings in a glimmer of trust. We start making connections as a kind of middle ground forms. Then people get a little braver, a little more trusting – and then a “wow” moment happens – what we made is delicious! Trust leads to accomplishment, leads to appreciation, leads to giving, leads to feeling great about giving, leads to creating even more. It is the magic of cooking together.
Although we considered postponing our garden time this Saturday, it is calling to us anyway. Please come by anytime between 10am and 2pm for more dirt moving, raised bed building and weeding- or to just say hello. We’ll have some extra gloves and hats, along with tea and nibbles.
Then we will be turning right around and serving a full house at our next Long Table Dinner, Thursday March 2nd, 6-8pm. Tickets have sold out for now, please contact us if you would like to be on our wait list – we do get cancellations. We will let you know the morning of the event if space becomes available. Thank you to those for spreading the word to fill our table. More soon, we’ll be in the weeds until then – in more ways than one!
Happy February 2017 Everyone! This quarter our new batch of students are keeping us busy, inspiring us to work harder (and better). Lots of great teamwork and excitement is building as we head towards our next Long Table Dinner.
That’s right – Long Table Dinner8 will be on Thursday March 2nd, 2017, 6-8pm.