News From the Kitchen
Come Grow With Us 2017 was our best gala yet! The total is in: We raised OVER $230,000 to keep creating pathways to success for New Orleans youth. Thank you so much to the fantastic chefs, sponsors, auction donors, artists, and the many friends of Liberty’s Kitchen who helped make this possible!
Congratulations once more to our award recipients:
The Honorable Calvin Johnson Youth Advocate Award
The Janet Gorence Davas Youth Achievement Award
Nadja Sampson and Da’Mon Keelen.
To learn more about Nadja and Da’Mon, watch this beautiful video. Many thanks to Nicelle & TG Herrington of Nom de Guerre Films!
Finally, congratulations to our Chef Showdown Winners!
Best in Show
Chef Michael Gulotta from Maypop and Chef Mark Quitney from Roux Bistro
Whole roasted eggplant with goat feta & warm bacon vinaigrette (Maypop)
Praline pork belly in steamed bun & Asian slaw; king cake pushup pops (Roux Bistro)
Chef Lulu Chustz from our very own Broad St Liberty’s Kitchen cafe!
Crispy hot chicken skins with maple rosemary cotton candy
Chef Ysaac Ramirez from Josephine Estelle
Canestri – cacio e pepe
Click HERE to check out more photos. We can’t wait for next year!
Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator
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
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 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.
“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 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.”
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
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