News From the Kitchen
We’re thrilled to have award-winning Chef Jason Klutts doing a guest stint in our kitchen now through the holidays!
Originally from southern Louisiana, Jason “grew up around the stove” and knew he wanted to be a chef from an early age. He attended the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute and got his kitchen chops all over the map: in France, New York, and Chicago. In addition to winning multiple awards for his creative and tasty dishes, Jason has been featured on the Food Network, NOLA.com, Southern Living, Star Chefs, and more. He’s been cooking for fourteen years and most recently worked as the executive chef at Cane & Table, where he received local, regional, and national recognition.
Chef Jason’s been part of the LK fam since he came to the grand opening of our Refresh location. He’s been a major supporter, representing at Come Grow With Us and bringing Cane & Table into the fold as an externship and hiring partner. He has worked with THREE graduates: Shayne, Fred, and Leon! Now working with us as a Guest Chef, Jason’s “excited to be able to contribute” and whipping up culinary magic every day at 300 N. Broad.
Try his special oven fried chicken sandwich with papaya honey mustard and spicy mayo on a brioche bun for a flavorful lunch! And stay tuned for more creative rotating specials and details on Guest Chef Nights at Liberty’s Kitchen, coming in 2017.
It’s 2:30 on a Friday and there’s a slight buzz in the air. Today is a Graduation Day at Liberty’s Kitchen, and everyone’s excited.
Graduation is the culmination of four months of hard work for our youth trainees. After daily instruction and coaching in the five tiers of our program, we celebrate the young people who have made it to the finish line! Today, we celebrate Ronald, Breonne, Leon, and Jeraneisha.
The trainees have been hard at work in the kitchen today creating their graduation meal; as part of the celebration, they get to choose the feast. BBQ chicken and lemonade for Ronald, carrot souffle for Bre, mac and cheese for Lee, and red beans and rice for Neisha. At 4 pm, the party starts. The staff is dressed up, but you can’t beat the graduates for swag. Ron’s in a tan blazer, Jeraneisha, a pink dress and gold hoops. Our latest Orientation class is present, ten strong, young people at the very beginning of their time with LK seeing what it’s like to successfully complete four months of life skills and employability training.
We break bread, and then the ceremony begins, a ritual we all know well. Chef Tasheena is our Mistress of Ceremonies, and roasts the students like no one else can. Ron is our “self-professed star pupil;” Bre, the resident perfectionist.
Neisha’s externship was at a daycare, creating meals for the participants. “I thought those kids were gon’ die,” cracks Chef T, and the room erupts into laughter, Jeraneisha laughing hardest of all.
But for each graduate, the ribbing ends with love. I watch Lee’s face as he listens to the words about him. “Lee, you were our cool guy, slow and steady. We’re proud of you for winning the race today.” He looks bemused, like he’s surprised to hear the room burst into applause.
Staffers line up to offer words of encouragement to the graduates. Everyone’s so proud. Ms. D, our fearless Orientation teacher, says to the graduates, “You matter, and your words matter,” repeating it until I’m sure they won’t forget. The awards are presented: Each graduate receives a knife set and a certificate of completion, poses for a picture. It’s a family affair, and family shows up: Ronald’s baby brother delights the crowd by sitting on his lap during a speech. The graduates speak, sharing words of thanks and reflection about their time in the program.
“I want to thank my classmates who helped me get through the program, I love you,” says Jeraneisha to her cohort.
Around the room, eyes are teary, but it’s congratulations, not goodbye. Now alumni, the cohort is eligible to participate in the Youth Leadership Program, a full eight months of programming and continued support after completion of the Youth Development Program.
Dennis, our Program Director, emphasizes that in a rousing speech. “We’re proud of you, and we love you,” he says to the graduates. “You are always part of the Liberty’s Kitchen family.”
After many more hugs and photos, the graduates finally clear out, the music is bumping, and the staff is cleaning up. I stack a chair and reflect: It’s graduation season across the country, but this ceremony feels more poignant than that of any prestigious university.
As Dennis puts it, “The graduations are never the same, because the young people are never the same.” Five more weeks till the next one, and we can’t wait.
— Posted by Nadia Laher
On February 24th, enjoy tapas featuring fresh Gulf fare along with carefully selected wine pairings, as well as a tour of Whole Foods Market’s sustainable seafood department and Liberty’s Kitchen’s Youth Development Program.
All proceeds benefit Liberty’s Kitchen’s mission of building bright and healthy futures for New Orleans vulnerable youth.