Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Master’s Kitchen


I have a confession to make: I fail far more often than I succeed.

I suspect this is true of most people who dream a lot. And I think it is a good thing. Every failure means we tried… and we learned.

Right now we are trying an experiment at the Community Kitchen I lead. I wrote about it yesterday here. We are working to switch over from cafeteria (or what many of our guests call “prison style”) service, complete with segmented trays and long lines and steam tables, to family-style service. It is an experiment. It might fail. But we must try.

Family-style service means having to do three “seatings” and it means re-setting the dining room each time. It means a lot more dishes (real dishes!) It means not just cooking for 100 people, but plattering, garnishing, serving and bussing for 100 people.

As more than one person has pointed out: we are creating a lot more work for ourselves and our volunteers.


Because we have faith that wholesome food, prepared and served with love, bestows dignity and invites hope.

That is our vision.

It is painted right on the wall.

I suspect some people thought it was “nice” to put it up there — a “nice” idea, a”good sentiment”.

Little do they know that I lose sleep thinking about ways to bestow a dignity that leads to life-transforming hope.

And there is something else that drives me.

It’s not my kitchen and these aren’t my guests.

It is His, and they are His guests.

It is the Master’s Kitchen and the guests we serve are His personally chosen guests.

While the Master himself is humble and without pretense — and I suspect would not mind being served on a plastic segmented tray — I also know that is not how I would serve Him, and it is not how He would serve His guests.

Is it more work? Absolutely.

Is food served family-style more nutritious? Nope.

But it is how the Master’s guests should be taken care of.


15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.


34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized


“Pass the peas, please”


Over the past 18 months, we have made some major changes to the “soup kitchen” that I am executive chef at.

We no longer call it a soup kitchen. I hate what most people think when they hear “soup kitchen.”  We have started to call it “Community Kitchen On Main”.

We are also now about 90% a scratch kitchen — that means we are cooking and creating wholesome and delicious food everyday, not just opening cans, re-heating food, and grabbing stuff from the freezer.

As much as possible, we make our own dressings, sauces and dishes. I have finally (!) worked through the 20 cases of instant mashed potatoes I inherited from the regional food bank — all real mashed potatoes here. Though I try and limit how often we serve them — we are trying to emphasize healthier foods like sweet potatoes, squash, brown rice, whole grain pasta and fresh produce.

We have also worked very hard to improve the quality and appeal of the space itself. No more VCT tiles, white walls, folding tables. We have wood floors, round custom-built wood tables, artwork from local artists, bright colors on the wall.

And today we launched a new experiment: family-style service.

That means no more segmented cafeteria trays, no more standing in line, no more steam table scoop-and-dump.  Everything is being served to each table — on platters, and in bowls — family style.

Why? Because we have faith that wholesome food, prepared and served with love, bestows dignity and invites hope.

We think family-style is more dignified.

And it also leads to important social interactions, like “can you pass the peas, please?”  No joke, for many of our guests, these kinds of basic interactions are both dignifying and humanizing.

There are two more reasons why I am so committed to trying this experiment… growing up the middle of 7 children, family dinner was one of the most significant parts of our life together. It is where we laughed, cried, argued, shared, caught up and generally stayed connected. In a world increasingly filled with TV dinners, and grab-n-go meals, family dinner was a priority in my family. At our agency, we focus on meeting people’s basic needs. Community — and social interaction — is a basic need as important as food, clothing or shelter.

The second experience I had with family-style was working at a Christian camp in the Adirondacks during college. This camp served over 500 teenagers family style three meals a day.  The idea was simple: model for people what community and family looks like.

So many of our clients are alone. So many have lost family — and community — ties. FOr many, “pass the peas, please” is actually a big deal. A really big deal.


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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

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