Within the first six months of 2015, the DWC Kitchen Team has produced over 55,000 meals – serving approximately 100 women breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack.
It’s no surprise that the secret sauce for the kitchen team – comprised of staff cooks and participant peer leaders – is a mix of teamwork, understanding, and mutual respect.
“It’s a learning experience, not a routine. We serve different people every day,” says part-time cook Alex Barragan. “It’s unlike other kitchens in that it’s a community kitchen – we learn from each other and collaborate to make it run smoothly every day.”
"It's a learning experience, not a routine."
Kitchen staff members have served as encouraging mentors to the participants. They positively reinforce each other to maximize their own potential and to contribute equitably to a strong Kitchen team. In effect, this opportunity has helped many participants develop a stronger work ethic and professionalism. Some have even been accepted into culinary schools in order to pursue careers as chefs.
Above: DWC participants can choose to help out in the Day Center by serving in the Kitchen.
Every day, participants get to know each other better through their mutual love of cooking. It makes them a family.
“I have learned while working in the Kitchen, we gotta love ourselves before we love others,” remarks Day Center participant Joann H. “We love each other for who we are; we need to be there for each other and show up. We may have disagreements – but if we work together, we can work it out.”
"We need to be there for each other and show up."
Similarly, staff members rely on the participants for most of the prep and cooking stages. Kitchen Manager Carlos Cortez shares, “It’s stressful when we are in a time crunch, but the participants have consistently been so dedicated and reliable that I am never worried. Never. Things always work out, and meals always end up being served.”
Above: DWC resident Teressa prepares for lunch in the Kitchen!
The DWC Kitchen also dedicates time every month to recipe experimentation. For both staff and participants, cooking becomes an inventive process where they strategize on how to best use existing food resources in the pantry.
“I encourage the participants to make mistakes and learn from them – there is no pressure to be perfect, only to have fun and for them to learn,” says Dani Dublinksi, Kitchen Coordinator.
Many Skid Row kitchens and cafeterias might serve frozen food and canned goods that can contain harmful toxins and chemicals. At DWC, the Kitchen takes care to be mindful of women’s food allergies and personal preferences by offering healthier alternatives such as a vegetarian option and a variety of fresh fruit. Local farms and organizations regularly donate organic products, and the DWC Kitchen upholds DWC’s value of sustainability in using reusable cups and plates.