News From the Kitchen
Our very own Culinary Training Manager, Chef Tasheena, has been named the Catalyst Kitchens 2016 Catalyst for Change! This award recognizes an individual from the CK network whose outstanding service and dedication to empowering lives through job training has made significant impact on individuals, their community, and the field of food service social enterprise. Chef Tasheena was selected out of twenty nominations from across the country and we are thrilled to honor her for her hard work and dedication to the LK mission. Beyond her commitment to our young people, Tasheena is a joy to work with and brings an unparalleled work ethic and contagious laughter to everyday.
Among her accomplishments:
- Increased Youth Development Program applications by 14%
- Increased program graduation rate by 14%
- Increased youth placed in jobs by 33%
- Decreased youth leaving the program by 43%
“When I think of the words “above and beyond,” my mind goes straight to Tasheena. She is selfless and generous, and has fun every step of the way.” — Dave Emond, Executive Director
We sat down for an exclusive interview with our rockstar to hear about the philosophy behind the work.
Tell us about yourself
I’m from New Orleans, born and raised. I’ve been a chef for over 10 years. I opened my own restaurant and it was a great and proud moment, however I had to close the doors. I always knew at some point I wanted to teach. I was very excited at the prospect of working at LK — it would allow me to take everything I had learned, my successes, my failures, and pass it on to teach and enlighten another group of people. It’s one thing to have a skillset, but if you don’t share it, it dies with you. But this way it perpetuates and goes on through what you teach others.
What do you do at LK?
My official job title is Culinary Training Manager – but I always say I’m a chef instructor. In the way that our program is set up, young people come to me after they go through Foundations where they’ve learned a lot of life skills and gotten comfortable with the culture of LK. I’m their first introduction into the weird wide world of culinary. I teach them the basics: how to use a knife, culinary math, sanitation, how to identify a tilt skillet and blast chiller — foundational baseline skills that they can continue to grow on as they work their way through program
What does it mean to you to be a Catalyst for Change?
I feel so incredibly blessed. Every group I work with in my professional and personal life are all people who are agents for change and I feel privileged to work with so many different people. What it means to me is that we recognize that things aren’t always as they should be. We have a responsibility to fight for giving everybody a fair shot. For those of us with the good fortune to have been raised well and educated well and have opportunities, we owe it to those who maybe life hasn’t been as kind to, to reach back and not give handouts but hands up.
For me, it comes down to doing small things with great love. Change is very difficult. It doesn’t come overnight. But it’s surprising to me how simple acts can really change the trajectory of someone’s life. We’re not saving lives in that we’re not running into burning buildings or curing cancer. But it’s these small things: giving that attention to detail and good spirit and cheer. It’s small acts of great love that can have lasting and sustaining impacts on people’s lives. Those small acts when added together, when done all over by different people, those small acts become big acts and big changes happen incrementally through small changes. A journey of 1000 miles happens one step at a time.
Any insights for others seeking to be Catalysts for Change?
I would say just remembering that it sometimes can get discouraging when things aren’t happening at the pace you think they should be, because long-term success takes time and it’s a process. Don’t get discouraged and trust the process. The road is not just a straight line, there are points where you have to veer left or right or turn around and all of that is part of it. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Change is coming. It might seem like it happens “suddenly” but the truth is you’ve been working at it this whole time.
We are so proud to have Chef Tasheena on the team and grateful to Catalyst Kitchens for their amazing support of our work!
–Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator
Our School Nutrition Program staff has worked hard all fall to start the school year off right, preparing thousands of healthy meals every day for local schoolchildren. Co-Production Managers Susan and Brandon joined our LK family in August and are a true Dream Team, bringing to the table skills in talent development, production, and communications, as well as an endless passion for SNP! We sat down with them to learn more.
Tell us about yourselves.
Susan: I am from El Salvador, a beautiful country I love and hold dear, but it has a lot of social and safety issues. Because of those issues I came to the United States in 2005 to follow my dream to better my range of opportunities and life choices. In the process of following that dream, my daughter is benefitting immensely from these new opportunities that I only dreamt of her having. I have worked in the restaurant industry since 2006 and have since transferred my kitchen abilities into the world of management and training. I believe that my culinary and managerial skills can be used as a tool for social change.
Brandon: I am originally from New Orleans and have traveled in different cities such as San Francisco, Atlanta and New York. I went to culinary school at the Art Institute of NYC. I connect fully with the mission of helping others which is the focal point of Liberty’s Kitchen.
What is SNP?
Susan: The School Nutrition Program is a branch of Liberty’s Kitchen that touches the lives of more than 1,500 kids and their families on a daily basis by nurturing them and fulfilling their need for a healthy, balanced diet. We believe good nutrition will facilitate kids’ success in academic performance as well as outside of school. One of our main objectives is to feed them with three to four meals on a daily basis with as much food made from scratch as we can, using local fresh products while following USDA guidelines. We aim to create menus that are both delicious and nutritious.
We hope to touch the lives of these kids not only through providing a balanced diet but also by being part of an integral education that will lead them to make better meal choices outside of school. To fulfill this goal, we are starting to work hand in hand with New Orleans College Prep to create and implement educational programs like: farm to school, composting, and school gardening whereby both Liberty’s Kitchen and the schools can educate kids on the importance of each project.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Susan: My favorite part is providing our team members with the right tools for success and seeing how the tools I’m giving them helps them work towards positive changes in their lives.
Brandon: I love feeding the children and menu development.
Where do you want SNP to be one year from now?
Susan: We know SNP will continue being a source of empowerment, betterment, and a tool for social justice and nourishment for our community. We are working to grow and give more people a chance to join this project. I see SNP making more job creation, education, and training opportunities possible. Just as importantly, it will keep bettering the lives of children through providing the nutrition they deserve and that they will receive through our special menus and educational activities.
Brandon: Agreed. It’s our goal to expand our program to other schools using the systems we have implemented.
Anything else to include?
Susan: Just a little quote: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Gandhi
–Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator