News From the Kitchen
There are so many people working hard behind the scenes to make sure Liberty’s Kitchen runs as smoothly as possible, and we want to give them credit! We were able to sit down with our Baking Instructor Michelle to ask her how she ended up at Liberty’s Kitchen and why she loves what she does.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m from Gramercy, LA, a tiny little Cajun town in St. James Parish. I moved to New Orleans officially this past August, but before that I lived all over the place. But now I’m back in Louisiana and I love being here!
How did you come to work at Liberty’s Kitchen?
While applying for a consulting position at a firm in Seattle, I gave a presentation on how the identity and culture of NOLA is shaped by local food NGOs like LK. I didn’t get the job, but presenting on it was the catalyst that inspired the move back home.
Where did you get your passion for food and baking?
My parents are Indian immigrants, so as a kid I was eating a mixture of Indian food and Cajun food. They were both physicians, so health was a huge factor in what I was allowed to eat. I didn’t have cable, and I didn’t have sweets– My parents preached the idea of “everything in moderation”. Teaching at LK has allowed me to teach what I learned from my childhood and later in life to the people in the program who maybe didn’t have the same lessons about health and nutrition expressed to them that I did growing up.
Being able to teach a tangible skill, like baking and cooking, is a great feeling; helping people every day and seeing immediate and long term results is why I love LK and everything that I do. It is amazing when you are baking cookies with the students, and then they are able to share them with everyone. When I hear them say “Okay, look what I did– I made this,” I know that what I am teaching is actively helping in their time here at LK.
What’s your favorite thing to teach?
I love teaching the students about healthy alternatives to food that they have grown up eating. I recently sat down with some students and helped them plan out a dinner menu that they could cook together. I first asked them what they wanted to eat, and then I helped them tweak it to create a more nutritious version; instead of fried chicken and fried vegetables, they roasted a whole chicken and roasted the vegetables with it. They came back after the weekend and told me they loved it!
One of my favorite healthier recipes is my banana bread. Instead of butter and oil to make it delicious, I add yogurt! It gives it an amazing texture and adds a little bit of natural sweetness, so I don’t have to use as much sugar!
Thank you Michelle for sitting down and talking with me! We love all of our staff and all they do for our young people. Give Michelle’s banana bread recipe a try and let us know what you think!
Michelle’s Banana Bread Recipe
Makes One loaf
Shelf life: 3 days or can be frozen
- 2 ½ cups bananas, pureed
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup canola oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 ¾ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
Mix dried ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside. Whisk bananas, yogurt, and oil in a large bowl. Add sugar, vanilla, and eggs to the banana mixture. Add dried ingredients to the liquid ingredients, mixing until just combined. Cover loaf pan with oil and a light layer of sugar, add ingredients to the loaf pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Test with a fork to make sure it is cooked through. Let cool and enjoy!
-Posted by Hana Rabin, Development Intern
Want more opportunities to learn about healthy, nutritious food in your communities? Our School Nutrition team has put together a survey to hear your ideas! One of our main goals is to support healthy lifestyles, and we can’t do that without your input.
Below is a message from our Nutrition and Communications Coordinator Caroline Robb, who is in charge of getting our healthy initiatives into our schools and neighborhoods!
We are in the development phase of creating workshops, courses, and other offerings for you to learn more about healthy eating, cooking, and other related topics. We are so excited to expand our community impact and to bring healthy lifestyle ideas to you, but in order to do so, we need your help! Please take a moment to let us know how we can best bring these opportunities to you by clicking this Community Education Survey. We can’t wait to get started!
Think we need more diverse programming in your community? We really want to know what you all are interested in– cooking skills? Understanding nutrition? Lifestyle balance? Budgeting? We want to help with all that we can, but we can’t if we don’t know what you might need. Please fill out this survey and give us all of your thoughts!
-Posted by Hana Rabin, Development Intern
We love our schools, and they love us! St. Andrews recently thanked Mr. Wendell for bringing them delicious meals every day, as he will now be a trainer in our School Nutrition Program!
“Mr. Wendell is beloved. We are excited that he is being promoted to trainer at Liberty’s Kitchen because he is so great at what he does. We will miss our daily moments with him. The Tadpoles made him a card and dessert to say thank you. We welcome Mr. Larry as our new delivery driver. We are very happy with our food provider. We get all forms of nourishment from our relationship with Liberty’s Kitchen!”- St. Andrews School
Mr. Wendell is an integral part of our operation here at Liberty’s Kitchen, as he has been with us for a long time providing meals to our schools. His promotion to trainer in our School Nutrition Program is a well-deserved step and we are so excited to see what he can do to expand SNP!
Here he is with Tallie, a St. Andrews student and Liberty’s Kitchen family member (Her dad, Seth, is our Director of Social Enterprise!)
We love providing nutritious meals to all of our schools every day, and bringing children of all ages food they might not have access to otherwise. This summer, we’ll be participating in the USDA Summer Food Service Program to continue delivering healthy meals to local children while school is out of session. Stay tuned for more updates from SNP!
– Posted by Hana Rabin, Development Intern
Our very own Culinary Training Manager, Chef Tasheena, has been named the Catalyst Kitchens 2016 Catalyst for Change! This award recognizes an individual from the CK network whose outstanding service and dedication to empowering lives through job training has made significant impact on individuals, their community, and the field of food service social enterprise. Chef Tasheena was selected out of twenty nominations from across the country and we are thrilled to honor her for her hard work and dedication to the LK mission. Beyond her commitment to our young people, Tasheena is a joy to work with and brings an unparalleled work ethic and contagious laughter to everyday.
Among her accomplishments:
- Increased Youth Development Program applications by 14%
- Increased program graduation rate by 14%
- Increased youth placed in jobs by 33%
- Decreased youth leaving the program by 43%
“When I think of the words “above and beyond,” my mind goes straight to Tasheena. She is selfless and generous, and has fun every step of the way.” — Dave Emond, Executive Director
We sat down for an exclusive interview with our rockstar to hear about the philosophy behind the work.
Tell us about yourself
I’m from New Orleans, born and raised. I’ve been a chef for over 10 years. I opened my own restaurant and it was a great and proud moment, however I had to close the doors. I always knew at some point I wanted to teach. I was very excited at the prospect of working at LK — it would allow me to take everything I had learned, my successes, my failures, and pass it on to teach and enlighten another group of people. It’s one thing to have a skillset, but if you don’t share it, it dies with you. But this way it perpetuates and goes on through what you teach others.
What do you do at LK?
My official job title is Culinary Training Manager – but I always say I’m a chef instructor. In the way that our program is set up, young people come to me after they go through Foundations where they’ve learned a lot of life skills and gotten comfortable with the culture of LK. I’m their first introduction into the weird wide world of culinary. I teach them the basics: how to use a knife, culinary math, sanitation, how to identify a tilt skillet and blast chiller — foundational baseline skills that they can continue to grow on as they work their way through program
What does it mean to you to be a Catalyst for Change?
I feel so incredibly blessed. Every group I work with in my professional and personal life are all people who are agents for change and I feel privileged to work with so many different people. What it means to me is that we recognize that things aren’t always as they should be. We have a responsibility to fight for giving everybody a fair shot. For those of us with the good fortune to have been raised well and educated well and have opportunities, we owe it to those who maybe life hasn’t been as kind to, to reach back and not give handouts but hands up.
For me, it comes down to doing small things with great love. Change is very difficult. It doesn’t come overnight. But it’s surprising to me how simple acts can really change the trajectory of someone’s life. We’re not saving lives in that we’re not running into burning buildings or curing cancer. But it’s these small things: giving that attention to detail and good spirit and cheer. It’s small acts of great love that can have lasting and sustaining impacts on people’s lives. Those small acts when added together, when done all over by different people, those small acts become big acts and big changes happen incrementally through small changes. A journey of 1000 miles happens one step at a time.
Any insights for others seeking to be Catalysts for Change?
I would say just remembering that it sometimes can get discouraging when things aren’t happening at the pace you think they should be, because long-term success takes time and it’s a process. Don’t get discouraged and trust the process. The road is not just a straight line, there are points where you have to veer left or right or turn around and all of that is part of it. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Change is coming. It might seem like it happens “suddenly” but the truth is you’ve been working at it this whole time.
We are so proud to have Chef Tasheena on the team and grateful to Catalyst Kitchens for their amazing support of our work!