CulinaryCorps


Day 2: Nothing But Love
April 18, 2009, 12:14 am
Filed under: Culanthropy

The day began with our jet fuel of choice on CulinaryCorps trips — cold-brewed coffee with plenty of milk and sugar. Hyped on caffeine and anticipation, our first assignment was to visit Liberty’s Kitchen to meet with Executive Director Janet Davas and to get an overview of the culinary training and job support program for at-risk youth.  But, more importantly, we wanted to get down to brass tacks about Saturday’s event with head chef Reggie Davis.  We gave him our shoplists and he gave us some wisdom; he said that “hope is a dynamic word, there is action in it.  You can ‘hope’ to make your train but if you don’t get your [butt] moving, you’re going to miss it.”  A poignant call to action if there ever was one.

A quick once-over of the menu and a tour of the Liberty’s Kitchen spanking new digs and we departed confident about tomorrow’s event.  We threw in a minor diversion as we made our way to P & J Oyster Company.  Family-owned and operated for over 100 years, P & J has been shucking oysters in the French Quarter for generations.  Today was not a shucking day but we got to talk with owner Sal Sunseri and get a better understanding of what makes Gulf oysters so unique.  And turns out it was our lucky day as Sal sent us packing off to Camp Hope with a GALLON of freshly shucked oysters for the Habitat for Humanity volunteers.  Talk about a treat.

A quick bite at Parasol’s for po’boys (shrimp and oyster/roast beef) and various house specialties (HOT muffaleta, boudin balls) and we were refueled for our evening of cooking at Camp Hope.  A gutted elementary school, Camp Hope is equipped to sleep over 1,000 Habitat for Humanity volunteers at a time.  Today’s numbers are much lower (about 170 volunteers are staying this week) but no matter how many are boarding, there is always a hot dinner on the buffet line at 5:30pm sharp.

The kitchen is led by a cook with a huge heart, Chef Frank Grabosky, and supported by a rotating roster of AmeriCorps NCCC members.  Today Chef Frank greeted us with his patented laugh and easy-going demeanor, introducing us to his larder of mostly canned goods and frozen foods and leaving us at the stove with his blessing.  After splitting into four teams, we took stock of the offerings at hand created our “An Evening in Italy” menu:

PRIMI

– Fried Shrimp with Lemon Aioli

– Pasta a la Toscana with Artichokes and Olives

SECONDI

– Catfish Parmigiana

– Chicken Etoufee Italiana

– Heuvos Rancheros Frittata

CONTORNI

– Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

– Panzanella Salad

DOLCI

– Banana Peanut Butter “Creme Brulee”

– Almond Stuffed Plums with Warm Plum Syrup

The teams set up their work stations and warmly brought the NCCC volunteers into the fold.  The AmeriCorps volunteers who helped us execute the meal were tremendous troopers, hanging in with the best of us as we chopped, sauteed and deep-fried our way towards dinner.

We were told that because French Quarter Fest was this evening, we could only expect to serve 100 people total.  But, as 5:30pm approached, word has spread that “the chefs were cooking” and a line started to stretch right out the door.  Over 200 happy customers later, CulinaryCorps got nothing but love as the team humbly accepted a standing ovation and appeals to “please come back tomorrow.”  We quickly passed the love right back, thanking them for the work they continue to do for this City.  It is volunteers just like them, and folks like Janet, Reggie and Sal, that inspire us to continue with our mission.  And get us excited about waking up really early and cooking again tomorrow.

[As a reminder, we’re chronicling the entire April 2009 trip at the CulinaryCorps blog (the planned itinerary is here).  We’re also posting updates via our new Twitter account.  Stay tuned!]

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I love the updates! They are so inspiring and I am wishing you an amazing trip!

Comment by eddybles

It sounds like you are having a fantastic trip. These updates make me feel like I’m there. Great menu…good times!

Comment by heywai




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