Hospitality House garden and culinary program going strong with community support
Every Wednesday, Kitchen Manager Chris Fagan and his culinary students cook dinner for 50 guests staying at Hospitality House.
This Fall, Fagan is teaching a 12-week program to five students with classes held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“I teach them basic cooking skills, knife skills and then we try to get them a job locally. That’s the goal, to be able to go out and get work and support yourself,” said Fagan.
Hospitality House is a nonprofit year-round community shelter for the Homeless in Nevada County funded primarily by individual donations. The safe haven provides three meals a day, laundry and shower facilities and is committed to ending homelessness by providing intensive case management services to all its guests.
BriarPatch Food Co-op supports the program by providing vegetable starts for the kitchen garden and donations of food for the cooking class that feeds folks looking for housing.
Last month, Fagan and his students were busy in the kitchen preparing a meal using donated food from BriarPatch — Chinese barbecue made with 30 pounds of Pork shoulder from Beeler’s Pork based in Chico; an arugula salad with fig and melon infused with balsamic dressing using red onion, orange, feta and mint; and carrots with a ginger soy glaze made with scallion and lemongrass.
“They always eat good on Wednesdays. These people really light up when it comes to dinner time. It’s a neat thing that they appreciate what we do for them,” said Fagan.
The students come from diverse backgrounds, like Shon Baker who learned of the program through the organization, Community Beyond Violence.
“I was a victim of domestic violence and there’s a bunch of people helping me out. It’s my way of giving back because we get to serve and cook for people who are experiencing homelessness,” said Baker.
A young man named Hunter Silber, 21 who struggles to hold down a job is enrolled in the culinary program because he needs to show probation that he is seeking and can maintain employment.
“Hopefully I will learn. This is my first day. I really like it,” he said. In the past, he has worked as a dishwasher and prep cook.
Outside the garden is producing a lot of food. Next year Fagan plans to plant a whole fence of beans.
“It’s the best year for the garden,” he said showing off the bounty in the form of eggplants, tomatoes and peppers.
Fagan started his food career in 1977 as a kid flipping burgers and making jams and condiments at Knotts Berry Farm. Grants from Food and Wine paid for his culinary training and he traveled to Frankfurt, Germany in 1988 with the Western Regional Culinary Team. For 25 years he worked in the hospitality industry for the largest catering operation in Hawaii. After re-opening the Lake Wildwood Club House as Executive Chef in 2016, he decided he wanted to slow down. That’s when he started a part-time gig with Hospitality House. The job has changed him.
“I stumbled upon this little place and I fell for it. I’ve learned a lot about people and its really opened my eyes in a different way. There are things in life that you don’t notice. You don’t pay attention until its right upon you. I guess someone needed me to learn this lesson,” he said.
Hospitality House relies on donations and volunteers.
Learn more about ways to give at: https://hhshelter.org/
Source: Briar Patch Food Co-op
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