News From the Kitchen
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
Last Thursday night, we transformed our cafe space with low-lit candles, crisp linens, and psychedelic Cambodian pop music for our March Guest Chef Night! Chef Mike Gulotta of Maypop, MoPho, and Tana at Treo took over the kitchen. Guests enjoyed a delicious 3-course dinner prepared by Chef Gulotta, themed around a fusion of Southeast Asian and New Orleans cuisine.
Guest Chef Nights at Liberty’s Kitchen are monthly fine-dining experiences which are open to the public and feature cuisine prepared by various acclaimed chefs in New Orleans. Liberty’s Kitchen alumni work alongside the chefs, giving them the opportunity to learn about the menu, various plating techniques, sample the menu items, and take part in the dynamic process of executing a fine-dining experience. Guests include supporters of Liberty’s Kitchen, community members, and our program graduates.
Guest Chef night honored two recent graduates, Devin and Jasmine, who both thanked everyone for attending and supporting the program. Another Liberty’s Kitchen alum, Darnell who graduated, in 2016 and works as an IT technician while he attends college, shared a few words.
“I love coming back to Liberty’s Kitchen because it feels like home to me and it’s like seeing my second family.” —Darnell, YDP Graduate C’16
Gulotta, who describes his cooking style as “Mekong Delta meets the Mississippi Delta,” created an exceptional menu. Favorites dishes of the evening were the chaat salad and the main course, palm sugar glazed pork belly paired with red beans in gulf shrimp, xo sauce and crispy rice cakes. Before serving his delicious “Maypop Tart,” Gulotta shared the intricate process of how he prepared the dessert. Guests savored every bite of the gingerbread-crusted five spice meringue tart.
Both Mike Gulotta and his brother Jeff Gulotta have been longtime supporters of Liberty’s Kitchen and are actively involved with youth initiatives in New Orleans.
“I love being a part of this event and this program. What Liberty’s Kitchen is doing is important for the future of New Orleans.” –Chef Mike Gulotta
Among the guests in attendance at Guest Chef Night were Liberty’s Kitchen Board chair, Matt Schwartz along with other attendees from the Domain Company, Patrick Bordnick, Tulane Dean of Social Work who brought a visiting group of students from San Antonio, and Ysaac Ramirez, Executive Chef at Ace Hotel’s Josephine Estelle Restaurant, a Liberty’s Kitchen employer partner.
Special thanks to West Elm for graciously providing the centerpieces and to our volunteers for serving our guests and helping the night run smoothly. If you are interested in volunteering at our Guest Chef Nights, send an email to email@example.com and include your name and phone number.
We hope you join us for our next Guest Chef Night which will be on April 20th and feature Chef Dana Honn from Carmo Cafe. Tickets are publicized via our newsletter and are limited so sign up here to hear it first. We can’t wait to see you next month!
–Posted by Rhea Lewis, Development Intern
We’ve tallied the votes, counted the generous donations, and eaten to our heart’s content. It’s confirmed: Come Grow With Us 2016 was our best ever. We brought in over $190,000 that will support bright and healthy futures for New Orleans youth through healthy school lunches, career training, and leadership development. Over 500 people came out to have a good time!
Thank you for showing up for youth! Check out some great photos from the night below.
Honoring Chef Alon Shaya with the Youth Advocate Award