In many ways, the kitchen is the heart of Talbot House Ministries. Amid the clanging of pots and pans, the smell of roasting meat, and the bustle of busy workers, our mission of caring for the homeless is made real.
Residents and staff make it a point to stop by the kitchen whenever they can. Clean and inviting, it’s the hub of some of our most essential services: three meals a day, snacks, food pantry distribution, donation sorting, and even on-the-job training.
Behind the scenes, but rarely in her office, is Kitchen Manager Rebecca Williams. For the last nine months she has been instrumental in transforming Talbot House’s feeding programs from basic to exceptional. Under her leadership, the area has been re-organized and inventoried. New vendors, including GreenWise, Walmart, and Aldi, have replaced restaurants as our main food donors. This means that the kitchen receives more unprocessed ingredients (raw meat, fresh produce, dairy, etc.) instead of heat-and-serve leftovers.
The new donations give our kitchen staff more flexibility when preparing menus. While our clients tend to prefer Southern dishes (especially fried chicken), Rebecca encourages them to try new things on a regular basis. She especially enjoys cooking Italian entrees, like chicken cacciatore.
The new range of donations also allows the kitchen more flexibility in adjusting to dietary restrictions. Working with the Good Samaritan Free Clinic, several of our clients have been placed on low sodium, diabetic, or low carb diets. We also accommodate dietary restrictions based on religion. At some points, Rebecca and her staff have been known to prepare up to six types of meals at one time!
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rebecca’s team never faltered. The kitchen rapidly transitioned from communal dining procedures to socially-distant “to-go” alternatives. They’ve made the best of a difficult situation, and even expanded their services to help distribute groceries to neighbors in need. The kitchen also recently hired two new cooks, Glen and Evelyne, who are already making a big difference.
The most impactful change Rebecca and her team are making in the kitchen is the new emphasis on hands-on teaching. Residents are learning basic knife skills and food safety, how to season dishes, the basics of a balanced meal, and the importance of cleanliness. Later this month, four residents will earn their ServSafe certifications in Talbot House Ministries’ kitchen. This important credential will make all the difference as they apply for jobs in the restaurant industry.
The kitchen’s biggest needs right now are additional fresh fruits and vegetables, seasonings (like garlic powder and black pepper), individually-packaged drinks and snacks, and disposable to-go containers. Some of these items can be purchased on AmazonSmile. Click here to see a wish list of some of our most urgently needed items.