News From the Kitchen
Darnell is an 18-year old trainee in our Youth Development Program and current all-star bellman at the Ace Hotel, almost ready to graduate next Friday! We sat down with Darnell to hear about his favorite part of the program (not the kitchen) and what he plans to do next!
What brought you to Liberty’s Kitchen?
The main reason I came was to do something with myself, I didn’t want to go straight to college after high school and I didn’t want a lot of idle time on my hands because that makes it easier to get into something you don’t want to.
Describe your experience at LK thus far.
In Foundations you did different stuff, like icebreakers, exercises, field trips — that especially opened your eyes, like the city bus tour and Studio Be. If I hadn’t come here, I probably would have known about it [Studio Be] but hadn’t been to it, but coming here I had the opportunity to experience it, and after visiting I saw a different point of view. I learned here that the kitchen is not for me. I didn’t like cooking, none of it. I want to be in the front of house. When I talked to [Career Development Associate] Ms. Bri I said I wanted any job in FOH, hosting is fine, bellman is cool, anything in the front.
Have you seen any personal changes since you started the program?
At first I was quiet. In Foundations I barely said stuff. I had my little shell, if I don’t know you I’m not going to say much to you, now if you see me they’d be like wow that’s the same kid. One of the reasons I came is I didn’t want to stay quiet, I wanted to learn to really communicate. Not only did I get the chance to but [the program] taught me how to do it. The staff make you feel welcome, they’re always open to you, whatever you need, if we can’t help you we’ll find somebody else that can. You don’t find that, especially not for free. It’s messed up that’s how the world is – “I’ll help you but what am I gonna get out of it.” You’re here for free – can’t put a price tag on that.
What part of the program has been your favorite so far?
My favorite part had to be the Café. I learned my strengths are in the front. I like working the cash register. I was kinda nervous, but they broke it down to me so I could pick up on it. I like interacting with customers, it’s really preparing you for your externship and stage. You always gotta be on top of your game. You gotta move around, check on customers, go the extra mile – “Can I get you anything else, what would you like with that? Everything okay?” My attention to detail really went up, you gotta check the pastry case, tables, is everything clean, did you leave dirty plates outside because your customers left. Knowing how to have a presentable front.
My communication skills went up. I went to Domino’s this weekend – I gave lady $20 and a quarter and when she accidentally made the quarter drop, I joked, “You don’t want that quarter huh!” I would never have done that before. That would have never happened if I hadn’t got this opportunity, I would have stayed quiet, only talked to people I really knew.
Where are you externing?
I’m a bellman at the Ace Hotel. I go upstairs, help people check out and bring bags downstairs, sometimes they come early, so I stow bags in the bell closet, write their name on the ticket. You gotta pay attention to which shelf it’s on because you don’t want to lose someone’s stuff. You gotta be on top of your game with that.
What’s your next move?
I’m about to go to school – called Earn and Learn – they’ll teach me a trade and they’ll pay me. Electrical or IT. They’re exclusive. I always wanted the skills but didn’t really want to go to school. I just want as many skills as I can get. I found out people go to school, get degrees, graduate, and when they graduate can’t even get a job. The more skills I get the more flexible my options will be. Those two jobs will still be around ten years from now.
You’re graduating soon – how do you feel?
It really feels like I earned it. It shows me that I stayed dedicated. Anybody considering the program, I would say you gotta do it for yourself.
Nick is a 23-year old trainee in our Youth Development Program. Having started in February, Nick is almost at the finish line of graduation! We caught up with Nick to hear about his reflection on the program thus far and his externship at Villalobos Rescue Center, a rescue, rehabilitation and placement facility for abused and abandoned pit bulls.
Can you describe your experience at Liberty’s Kitchen so far?
It’s a long process. You get what you put in. Like if you show the effort to try to move ahead they’ll give you every opportunity they can and try to help you.
What part of the program has been your favorite so far?
Orientation – that’s where I got to know my classmates and find out more about the program and get a sense of get the silliness out now because it’s going to get serious – I mean I never got rid of all of it but you know. *laughs*
Where are you externing now?
Villalobos Rescue Center in the 9th Ward. It’s an animal shelter, mostly pitbulls there, that’s their specialty, but they take in other dogs.They find stray dogs; some people don’t want their dogs so they call them to pick them up, they’ll have a person just reporting a dog in the area, they’ll go see about it and maybe take them in.
How did you get to Villalobos?
I wanted to work with creatures other than humans, because I get along with animals more than I do people. I can get along with people but dogs don’t give you conflict. They’ll play around a little bit but they’re easy to get along with. They’re really man’s best friend.
Have you had pets before?
I had a python named Python, I had a dog – Australian shepherd with Labrador mix. Katrina took my snake. When I moved from Texas I didn’t have a place to stay so I didn’t want to have my dog out there struggling with me so I gave him to somebody to take care of.
What do you do at your externship?
I walk dogs, feed dogs, I’m in charge of 27 dogs. I clean the kennels, and do spot mopping… I just spend time with them. I’m there 4 days a week, sometimes 5. I’ve been there for two weeks, this is my third.
What have you learned from externing there?
Perseverance, because I live a little far from it and sometimes I don’t have the funds to get there but I find a way to make it there.
What’s your favorite thing you learned to make in the program?
Spaghetti, because I can make it from scratch now.
Anything else you want to say?
If you make a decision to join this program make sure that you plan to stick through it to the end because the benefits are amazing. Not only do they help find you a job, they work with you so that you might be able to keep that job and even level up in the business to where you are the person that’s hiring people.
We’re so excited to see Nick graduate and continue working with animals! If you appreciated his story, consider donating to help young people like him pursue their dreams!
Philip is a trainee in our Youth Development Program. Having started in December, Philip has worked his way up to the front of house training. We sat down with Philip to hear about his experiences at Liberty’s Kitchen so far.
So, when did you start the Youth Development Program at Liberty’s Kitchen?
I started all the way back in December, so I’ve been here about two and a half months.
What part of the program have you been working on this week?
I’m in the front of house now, I’ve been doing the ‘tasting’ work. That means I give out free samples and coffee to customers. I prefer the front of house, I feel more active in the front. I’ve also been working as a barista, making coffee for customers.
What is your favorite dish to cook or to eat?
I love the burgers at Liberty’s Kitchen, my favorite one is the MVBurger.
What do you like about Liberty’s Kitchen the most?
I like the dedication in the workplace for young employees, it makes an easy environment to work in.
What do you want to do once you’ve graduated from Liberty’s Kitchen?
I want to pursue my passions of film and acting. If that doesn’t work, I can go back to art. I like to draw a lot and paint.
Liberty’s Kitchen has three trainees participating in externships with local partnering restaurants: Dedrick, Nadja, and Shayne. We checked in with our externs to hear about their experiences so far.
Dedrick, or “DD”, has felt right at home with District Donuts. So far, DD has been helping out wherever he can at District, handling everything from washing dishes and bussing tables to interacting with customers. When asked about his favorite part of the externship so far, DD replied, “Everything. It’s really cool over there, I love it.” As District allows him to get more involved in the back of house, DD says he “can’t wait to learn the stuff they do, like making everything from scratch.”
Nadja has really taken to her position at Good Karma Prasad Cafe in Swan River Yoga. So far, Nadja has been working both in the front and back of house at Good Karma. She often prepares smoothies and runs the cash register, putting her barista skills to good use! Nadja has enjoyed her externship because “the atmosphere is so relaxing” at Good Karma Cafe. The Cafe’s primarily vegan menu has also helped Nadja “become more diverse in [her] food choices.” Stop by Good Karma Cafe to have Nadja serve up her favorite dish, the Malaysian Curry.
Shayne has been splitting his time in the New Orleans Healing Center between the New Orleans Food Co-op and Cafe Istanbul. Over at Cafe Istanbul, Shayne has been helping with maintenance work, while at the New Orleans Food Co-op, he has been working in the deli section. Shayne has enjoyed his time at both locations, commenting “I like that I’m able to be myself.” He also noted his excitement at the possibility of being moved to the cash register to improve his skills with customer interaction.