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
The Emeril Lagasse Foundation provides support for youth to change their lives in lasting ways. Here are the stories of a few special young people whose lives have been touched by multiple programs that the Foundation supports. Watch this video of LK grad Nadja to see how organizations like the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and Liberty’s Kitchen, are working together to create a stronger New Orleans. Thanks to ELF for your generous support!
After Youth Development Program graduation, Liberty’s Kitchen alum go on to many different pursuits… sometimes even joining our staff! After graduating in 2011, LK alum Keith worked in restaurants all over the city including Commander’s Palace and Crescent City Brewhouse. Recently, he joined our opening team at Liberty’s Kitchen Poydras, where he works as a cook, producing classic hot lunch favorites for hundreds of people daily and even creating new menu items.
He spent hours standardizing the recipe for these delicious pralines and did a cost-analysis to prepare them for sale.
“Keith takes pride in his work and is very attentive to instruction,” says Chef Adam, Poydras General Manager.
In addition to his work as a cook, Keith is currently beta testing training modules for post-graduation education at Poydras for other LK alum. He exemplifies the Career Track training we’re implementing at Poydras, supporting our graduates to get to the next level in their career journeys.
Keith says,”I started as any other youth. I didn’t know where life would take me. So I understand the struggle they face every day. Liberty’s Kitchen gives them a way out. A way to change their own lives.”
We’re so proud of Keith and excited that we can provide another training ground for New Orleans young people with our new location.
Come try Keith’s pralines any day for just $2 at Liberty’s Kitchen Poydras!
–Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator