11 September, 2018

Liberty's Kitchen - Come Grow With us...

IFBC 2018 Excursion to Liberty"s Kitchen with Dennis Bagneris, CEO
No one can doubt that New Orleans is the city of delicious dishes,  With the melange of cultures, flavors, ingredients and history, amazing food is easy to find  in the in the Big Easy.

One place where you can do good by eating is Liberty's Kitchen.  On September 21st, around 700 attendees will be at their annual "Come Grow with us..." Gala at the elegant Ace Hotel.  The event is a fundraiser but also honors excellence in the program; this year it honors

  • Janet Gorence Davas Youth Achievement Award: Max Williams and Kisscha “Keedy” Tiffith
  • Calvin Johnson Youth Advocate Award: Troy James  
New this year,  an inaugural Food Justice Champion Award will honor the late Arthur “Mr. Okra”  Robinson .  Mr. Robinson was produce peddler whose efforts across New Orleans especially in areas where there wasn't a lot of fresh produce made it accessible to seniors and others. Now his daughter has taken up his mantle.

It will be a great event so if you are in the area, buy tickets here You can also donate here too.

More opportunities are the Guest Chef Nights During Guest chef night, the Broad Street Cafe at
Guest Chef night: It's a thing
Liberty's Kitchen turns into a 50 seat  fine dining experience.  A  3 course meal is planned by a notable New Orleans Chef, who in turn works with six students .  They get work with a master chef and that ends up being an audition for future work. Four  graduating students are recognized as VIP.  Part of the success of the program is recognition and the power that positive reinforcement can bring  There is no more delicious way to invest in the future than attending one of these, so if you can make it, do.

BONUS: Since there is no official wine program, you can bring a special bottle from home with free corkage.  If you are in New Orleans, be sure to see if there are any events you can attend as the School does  attract wonderful chefs for Guest Chef night ( Click HERE for list of events)

Well all that is well and good, but what all do they do, you ask?

Superstars of Liberty's Kitchen
Liberty's  Kitchen is an amazing organization that provides 360 degree support for at motivated  young people who are out of school and out of work and
trying to find their way in the culinary field.  With two locations in New Orleans at 300 Broad Street as well as a cafeteria on Poydras, traditional culinary apprenticeship is spiced with caring, molded with discipline, shaped by support for the whole person.

And true to form, these kitchens turn out wonderful fresh dishes.  As part of the International Food Blogger's conference this year, I was able to go and not only be dazzled by a program that does so much for its students, but turns out mouth watering food.

Delish breakfast
Kitchens can be rough - we've all seen Gordon Ramsay- but many of these candidates come from home situations that are rougher still.  Many are dealing with PTSD or worse from abusive childhoods or need a boost to emerge from difficult situations.

By combining support services with the apprenticeship, Liberty's Kitchen aims to fill in the missing gaps for these wonderful students who have so much to give.  The goal is not charity, but rather help the participants master resiliency and coping skills.  Liberty's Kitchen builds community by strengthening the individual and letting them take who they are and go from there.

It's a twelve week program that includes support services for a year.  In reality, successful participants build lifelong networks.  It's a place that honors the individual, even if that means a second chance to work on your character.  The main thing Liberty's Kitchen looks for is employees who care.

AM:School Kitchen /PM:Commercial Kitchen
It also empowers entrepreneurial activities. One very interesting pilot program is the Incubator. Since the classes run from 6 am to 1 pm,  from 2PM to 7PM, they are working on a pilot program for entrepreneurs.  The incubator concept will allow Liberty's Kitchen to transform the space into a rentable commercial kitchen for chefs and food producers.  Capital and start up costs are mitigated so more entrepreneurs can get access to the equipment they need.

Alumna who now runs a program
Another program, the Healthy Corner Store Collaborative reaches out to mom-and-pop grocers in food deserts and helps them be successful with more healthy fresh food.  Liberty's Kitchen helps the store, which might lack the scale or the know how to present healthy alternatives to fast food.  This program helps them learn how to market fresh items.  This way seniors and others can get better nutrition locally.
In partnership with the Top Box program students pack delicious fresh food into boxes.  Liberty's Kitchen program is able to help provide beautiful fruit for 40% less.  This program makes it easier for people to access fresh food and enables healthier meals at home.

Top Box Fresh Fruit
The CEO of Liberty's Kitchen, Dennis Bagneris,  gave several food bloggers the opportunity to see this great organization in action.  Dennis, aka Mr. D,  came from the private sector, and started out as front of house working nearly every job up to CEO where he now helms the organization.  It's clear that his passion for providing a safe space to grow and a sustainable path to a better future will help the world be a better place

New Orleans is a food destination to gastronauts.  Liberty' s Kitchen leverages that to create a space of success and closes off all avenues of failure for those that can change

Learn.  Grow. Lead. is what Dennis works tirelessly to enable.  We all win when these culinary voices learn to sing with harmony and flavor as I experienced when I tasted their food!  I hope you visit when you are next in New Orleans.

Many thanks to Dennis Bagneris aka "Mr. D" for the wonderful experience at Liberty's Kitchen and to the folks at the international Food Bloggers conference for organizing