News From the Kitchen
At this year’s Come Grow With Us (Friday, September 15), Liberty’s Kitchen will honor Jeff Gulotta with the 2017 Youth Advocate Award. Jeff and his brother Michael are co-owners of the award-winning MoPho and Maypop restaurants here in New Orleans. Before starting his own restaurants, Jeff worked at Restaurant August, Besh Steak at Harrah’s New Orleans, and many other restaurants in the city.
We are honoring Jeff because he continuously works with Liberty’s Kitchen to shape the “next face of the New Orleans restaurant industry,” which is a vibrant industry that means a lot to him. He is always looking for ways to give back to his community, and luckily, he found an opportunity through Liberty’s Kitchen.
Busy with his many restaurants and other ventures, Jeff also participates in the LK Youth Development Program by meeting with trainees during their fourth week of the program. Today, I was fortunate enough to join Jeff and the trainees at MoPho, the first of Jeff’s Southeast Asian restaurants. During the meeting, Jeff talked about his 25 years in the restaurant industry, how he worked every job from dishwasher up to owner, and how each trainee can also find success in the industry.
He spoke about the “big picture” of working at any job, how it is a way to make a living and support yourself so that you can also enjoy life. In order to get to that point, it is important to work hard at your job and improve your skill-set, and that starts with showing up to work and consistently proving your value to your employer. Liberty’s Kitchen gives its trainees the basic skills so they can get their “foot in the door,” but then it is up to every individual to grow from there and increase their value as an employee.
As a restaurant owner, Jeff pointed out all of the costs that contribute to maintaining a successful business. Employees must do their work well in order to be worth the cost of paying them. To do so, Jeff discussed the importance of time management; instead of seeing every free moment as a chance to take a break, you can see it as an opportunity to develop a new skill. Everyone can set “little goals that you can hit every day,” and that will make you attractive to an employer and contribute to a successful career. For people with a strong work ethic, there is so much potential in the restaurant industry, especially in New Orleans.
Jeff’s restaurants will also participate in our Come Grow With Us: Chef Showdown celebration. Maypop’s serving up Whole Roasted Eggplant with Goat Feta and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette & MOPHO’s bringing Khoa Soi, coconut braised chicken, and peach sambal.
-Posted by Miriam Teller, Development Intern
Keith Gardner, author of I Never Would Have Made it Without You, was back at Liberty’s Kitchen today to speak with our trainees and staff. He survived a seemingly-fatal injury, and now he shares the inspirational thoughts that pushed him through difficult times in his life. Here are a few of Keith’s points:
- Be grateful and don’t take anything for granted.
- Don’t be ashamed to ask other people for help.
- Dedication, determination, and willpower; it’s all up to you. If people are negative about your abilities, use that as motivation.
- Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and check yourself. Make a change for the better. We’ve all made mistakes, but we can also make a change.
- Surround yourself with good people and treat people right.
Keith’s visit was full of positive vibes and motivation for self-empowerment. Hopefully, everyone heard something that they could relate to and keep in mind as they work towards their goals. Inspirational stories like Keith’s prove that anything is possible. That’s something we truly believe at Liberty’s Kitchen.
-Posted by Miriam Teller, Development Intern
Last Thursday was our sixth Guest Chef Night, this time featuring Chef Alex Harrell of Angeline. Chef Harrell opened Angeline in 2015, and is both executive chef and owner of Angeline. His food “brings a fresh, refined approach on Southern cuisine to the French Quarter.” Chef Harrell uses fresh, local southern ingredients and incorporates French techniques to create elevated Southern dishes. Originally from Alabama, he is passionate about bringing his vision of Southern food to New Orleans.
To Chef Harrell, cooking is about community. Chef Harrell participated in Guest Chef Night as an opportunity to give back to the local culinary community and have a special day in a new kitchen. He arrived at 2 PM to prepare and cook the entire meal with LK trainees. For the menu, he wanted to keep the dishes light and summery. The meal was delicious!
During the event, we took the time to celebrate three special Liberty’s Kitchen graduates.
Liberty graduated from the program last year; she’s been working as a barista trainer in the cafe for the past eight months. We celebrated Liberty last night because she is about to have a baby!
Devon is the second graduate we celebrated. He completed his externship as a host and busser at The Ruby Slipper Cafe, and was offered a job to stay on at the restaurant.
Last but not least, we honored Janisha, who graduated from the Youth Development Program on Friday! She completed her externship as a host at The Ruby Slipper Cafe. Her favorite tier of the program was catering and baking. Janisha is looking forward to returning to Oglethorpe University in Atlanta this fall.
“I don’t have anything negative to say, I gave [LK] a try and loved it since the very first day. I learned to ‘trust the process.’ It can refer to anything, like going back to school, or trust in yourself.” — Janisha
Thanks again to Chef Harrell and Angeline! Special thanks to sponsor Home Place Pastures for donating the pork belly and conducting a presentation with our trainees about ethical meat farming.
Thanks to West Elm for continuously providing gorgeous event decor, and to our hard-working volunteers who make these dinners possible. If you’re interested in volunteering, click here for more information.
Guest Chef Night was such a blast, the food was amazing, and it’s always great to celebrate our graduates. We are excited to announce that on August 17th, Chef Ysaac Ramirez of Josephine Estelle at the Ace Hotel will be our next guest chef! Make sure to get your tickets here, and we will see you then.
Posted by Miriam Teller, Development Intern
On Monday we shared a special day at the café with Event Pros Take Action (EPTA). EPTA is an organization that brings together professionals from the events industry to volunteer in different communities around the country. It is the third year in a row that we had the opportunity to meet with members of this organization for an impactful and uplifting program.
We were all split into small groups and went around to five different workshops, each lead by a different volunteer from EPTA. In each workshop, we focused on different ways to work towards success and cultivate personal growth.
Here is a list of my main takeaways from the day:
- Goals should be challenging to accomplish, but ultimately attainable. Make your goals specific so that you can track your progress and stay on the path towards achieving them. With reaching any goal, “consistency builds credibility,” which leads to improvement and success. — Jack Weiner and David Lombardo, Business workshop
- A three step plan for success: first, figure out what you love to do; second, get really good at it, third, figure out how to get paid for it. — Anna Zilinskas and Bobby Dutton, Social Media workshop
- Seeing certain experiences as challenges, not problems, means that we can take them on and succeed; we can still achieve our goals by staying strong and positive. –Dana Stiles and Harold Baily, Overcoming Adversity workshop
- Wherever you are, you can find a moment to close your eyes, breath, and meditate. — Jennifer Dutton, Health and Wellness workshop
- Baking requires focus and precision, which are two important characteristics in accomplishing any goal — Jon Petrie and Erin Schrepfer, “Christmas in July” Pastry workshop
Overall, the day had strong messages about how to stay positive and passionate, both personally and professionally. It was a time for everyone to reflect on their personal growth and focus on their goals for post-graduation from Liberty’s Kitchen.
— Posted by Miriam Teller, Development intern