News From the Kitchen

Guest Chef Night ft. Ysaac Ramirez

August 21, 2017 | Events, Fundraising, Graduate Spotlight

Guest Chef Night last Thursday was a huge success and a delicious taste of what’s to come next month with Come Grow With Us.  The seventh installment of this event featured Chef Ysaac Ramirez of Josephine Estelle at the Ace Hotel, who will also be joining us at our upcoming annual gala alongside 19 other renowned New Orleans chefs.

Chef Ysaac supports Liberty’s Kitchen because he appreciates the commitment it makes to all of its trainees.  He employed Elijah, a YDP graduate, in his restaurant two years ago and has appreciated how how Liberty’s Kitchen continues to check in and support Elijah after the program.

Chef Ysaac is also committed to using Louisiana produce as much as possible, and last night’s meal was no exception.  He cooks Italian dishes but uses local Southern ingredients to provide a special touch to the menu.  For example, he incorporated muscadines – a type of southern grape – into the first course.

In addition to previewing one of our Come Grow With Us chefs, we also recognized Nadja Sampson and Da’Mon (Tumma) Keelen, the two LK graduates who will receive the Janet Gorence Davas Youth Achievement Award, and Jeff Gulotta, the 2017 Youth Advocate Award recipient.  Director of Youth Success, Dennis Bagneris, made glowing remarks about all three honorees and why Liberty’s Kitchen chose to honor them this year. 

Nadja Sampson

“Nadja is an incredible young woman who we consider to be a shining example of our Youth Development Program in how she just personifies resilience. In the face of new opportunities and challenges, even in recognizing her own fears, she continues to push through, regardless of personal and professional challenges, always inspired to do better and be better.” 

Nadja started working at Good Karma Cafe through her externship with YDP, and now, two years later, she still enjoys her job and even runs the kitchen from 3 – 8 PM.

Da’Mon (“Tumma”) Keelen

“Tumma is a young man driven to create the most successful version of himself.  He strives not only to excel personally, but also to support his peers’ development. He’s a born leader and exudes all the qualities that this program would want to see personified in a young adult and mentor.”

Tumma has been working for The Ruby Slipper Cafe for a year and is progressing through the ranks in the kitchen there.  He is also studying to become a video game designer.

Jeff Gulotta

“Jeff regularly opens up his restaurant to our program and takes time to meet with these young people individually.  He is committed to setting them up for success.”

In addition to co-owning MOPHO and Maypop, Jeff gives back to the restaurant industry and works to shape the next generation of local young people who will run it in the future.

We look forward to celebrating our award winners at our seventh annual Come Grow With Us: Chef Showdown, on September 15th at the beautiful Ace Hotel.  Join us for more amazing food from Chef Ysaac and many other talented New Orleans chefs.  We will also have an open bar, live auction, and music by T-Ray the Violinist and DJ RQ Away.

Thank you to everyone who joined us last night in supporting youth success, and a special shout out to West Elm for providing the table decor.

– Posted by Miriam Teller, Development Intern 

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Keith Gardner’s Thoughts on Motivation

August 16, 2017 | Behind the Scenes, Events

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 


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The Starbucks Foundation + Liberty’s Kitchen

August 02, 2017 | Events, Partner Spotlight

We are proud to announce that Liberty’s Kitchen has been awarded a 2017 Opportunity for All grant from The Starbucks Foundation! We welcome you to join us on August 16th at 12:00 PM to celebrate this milestone, and our long-standing partnership with Starbucks to create economic opportunities for youth in New Orleans.   

Beyond great coffee and conversation, the event will be an opportunity to hear from leaders at Liberty’s Kitchen and Starbucks, and most importantly, celebrate the young men and women who we serve through employment and life skills training. With our newly announced Opportunity for All grant from Starbucks, we will be able to further our impact within the community through our employment training and leadership development programs, and continue our work providing freshly prepared, nutritious meals to local school children.  

Building on over 20 years of giving, The Starbucks Foundation has a long legacy of investing in communities through support of organizations working to create job and education opportunities. With its new Opportunity for All initiative, the organization is deepening its focus on three populations – youth, veterans and military spouses, and refugees. Starbucks is proud to select Liberty’s Kitchen as an inaugural recipient of the 2017 Opportunity for All grants.   

Please join us for a coffee tasting, brief remarks, and an open house with our Starbucks partners, Liberty’s Kitchen staff, volunteers, civic leaders and other special guests. We hope to see you there! Please feel free to RSVP to Jamie at

August 16, 2017
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Starbucks @ Canal St. & St. Charles
700 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70119

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Guest Chef Night ft. Chef Alex Harrell

Chef Harrell

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! 

Our graduates: Liberty, Janisha, and Devon

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. 

Celebrating our young people

Posted by Miriam Teller, Development Intern

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