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18 Jan


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January 18, 2017 | By | No Comments

I know this is the time of the year when we all try to better ourselves. It really is such a great time to stop and reflect. On that note Chef Tommy has a whole list! At the top of the list is asking for help. I have been so hell-bent on making Kitchen Sage sustainable, that I have let my pride distract me. Kitchen Sage is not at the point where we are completely sustainable. We are close and with your help we can get where we need to be. So here I am asking for your HELP! If everyone within the sound of my voice could just hit this link and donate at least 10 bucks, we can expand our reach for the preschool meal program, our Crock and Roll program teaching the preschool parents basic Home Economics, and opportunities for the students and alumni of the Culinary Leadership Academy. Watch the video, then please, please click to donate. Prove to me that it doesn’t hurt to ask, because right now Kitchen Sage Needs YOU.

Click Here to Donate and Prove Me Wrong!

12 Jan


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Kitchen Sage, Stretching the Canvas!

January 12, 2017 | By | No Comments

This year was HUGE for Kitchen Sage! Through Steepletown Neighborhood Services, Kitchen Sage has been able to graduate to the next level of service to our community. We actually achieved a proprietary license with the state as a vocational institute, breaking the barriers for our young adults. Our students may not have the means yet to enter into a full culinary program. Our program is only six weeks and gives them opportunities to make money as they learn by helping prep 700 preschool meals a day that help sustain Kitchen Sage’s mission.

Kitchen Sage is a six week program that students have the opportunity to learn basic culinary skills, focus on food safety accreditation(ServSafe), and most importantly self-empowerment.
The self empowerment piece is so vital for our restaurant partners. We have a finite amount of time with our students. It is our goal to give them the WHAT WHAT it takes to be good employees in the hospitality world. These skills extend to to the mindset of KEEPING THE JOB! When they complete this six weeks, we then place them in an 6 week externship in the community that fits the student. This externship is paid for the student as well as giving them an opportunity to prove themselves with the employer.

Our restaurant partners want to take this six week externship to mold their future employee. Chef’s Justin and Karen proclaim, “We want to afford our partners with a blank canvas”! The employer knows that the student has at least the basics from the Culinary Leadership Academy. This is why we tell people that we are just “stretching the canvas!” We are taking our young adults and giving them the confidence to be good employees.

Did you know that by 2019 America will be short an estimated 200,000 chefs? Its because people nowadays want their food prepared not processed! Sounds like a great career huh? Well it is!

13 Oct


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Best Hangover EVER!

October 13, 2016 | By | No Comments

Click HERE to see Chef Chris and Chef Tommy Hanging with Pascua!

When you click this video, you will see why I am so HUNGOVER. Many of you know that my drug of choice has always been FOOD and PEOPLE. So last night was filled with great food and with great neighbors, all to support OUR AMAZING COMMUNITY. I think that it was the sincerity behind all the restaurants coming together to battle it out for our neighborhood that gave me such a high!

Team Chef Mark MacNaughton from the CASCADE ROADHOUSE, Killed it with a pumpkin and turkey “GHOULASH!”
Team Chef Nick Snacker from GANDERS put up an amazing pork belly with a perfect pumpkin risotto with shrimp
Team Chef Chris DeJonge from THE ADA POUR HOUSE put a ridiculous “puff of pumpkin pork love” on my plate that would have stopped traffic
Team Jeff Duba form Heritage Meats and Chef Chris Weimer from BREWERY VIVANT won the PEOPLES CHOICE AWARD for their crazy pumpkin fritter
And finally, Chef Michael Alexander and his team from THE HONEY CREEK INN killed it with a ravioli that would make my mother jealous and stole the JUDGES CHOICE!

So here we are, the morning after! I am still filled with humility, gratitude, and fortified hope for our neighborhood!

Thank you again all you amazing teams and the Cascade Community Foundation, I owe you a ginormous debt of gratitude.

28 Sep


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No, I did not Bribe my Student!

September 28, 2016 | By | No Comments

I know that some may say that I must have BRIBED our latest and greatest student, but I really just threatened her! In all reality, there is only so much we can afford our students in such a short time. That is when we really rely on our partners to help us take the student to the next level. Well Star Bond is on that next level!

Watch the video, NUFF SAID!

14 Sep


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Just in the MICK of Time!

September 14, 2016 | By | No Comments

star-mick-interview-mashup-2I am sure everyone knows how sappy I can get, but this time its not too bad! But it is really amazing that a company that gave me opportunities to put myself through school, that this many years later I still feel a part of the team.

Whenever the Gilmore Group asks, I am happy to help out with things like judging or being apart of one of their countless events. It takes me waaaay back to the time to when I worked at the Thornapple Inn. I was a server, dish dog, or anything they needed because they were so willing to take the time to train me on new roles. The money was great, the knowledge was POWER!

So just as I am trying to place my recent graduate, I gave Chef Mick Rickerd a call. Chef Mick runs the catering for Gilmore..yummy! Mick and I go back to some funny events when an honest word would prove paramount. I have always respected him for that. So when I had a Star, (literally that’s her name!) graduate from Kitchen Sage I had to be strategic with her placement for the externship. Star has so many core things that will make her a great chef, a diamond in the rough. I wanted to put her with a chef that would hold her accountable and help her hone her skills. I knew Mick was the man!

The man for what? I need partners that are willing to take the risk and really hold my graduates accountable. The real chefs of the world mentor hard! When I was a budding chef there were often private talks in the walk in cooler, threats of violence!, or worse yet calling me out if I was being lazy. That is how you make a chef! And today there is the cellphone that chefs have to deal with on top of all the BS. I am so lucky I didn’t have to worry about cell phones at Cafe Stella! Mick, how do you do it?!!

So Mick, Chef/Brotha! THANK YOU! Without partners like you, Kitchen Sage would be just Home Economics, not WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT!

12 Sep


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Not Gonna Be A Chef?

September 12, 2016 | By | No Comments


Look at this young man! Jonah Jansen and his brother Samuel were in the first Kitchen Sage class, NOT gonna be chefs!

Both brothers were outstanding young men. I really can not take credit for their aptitude, work ethic, or just there coolness. They both took every opportunity I gave them with an incredible sincerity. To tell you the truth, they actually took an opportunity that gave them a true baptism by fire. With Kitchen Sage, Jonah and Samuel helped take over the food program at Indian Trails Camp in the summer of 2015. What a baptism of fire! Can you imagine having to feed 120 differently-abled campers a hearty, nutritional breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week? Well we pulled it off!

Fast forward today and these young men are following their own passions for life and career. Samuel is at Hope College studying political science and Jonah is at CC.

The great thing about this picture is Jonah greeted Emily and I as we checked in in at Spectrum Health two weeks ago. We were in anticipation to deliver our first child! I could not believe how Jonah has brokered our relationships to get a “job” at Spectrum health. Right now he is delivering meals to help pay for college.

In reality he is on the fast track to becoming a NURSE, not a chef and I could not be happier. Spectrum has an amazing reimbursement program so Jonah will pay as he goes, taking college debt of his shoulders. He has shadowed in the ER, watched a brain surgery, even shadowed with AeroMed!

Kitchen Sage is opportunity, for those that eat it up!

09 Sep


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Chop, Dice, and HARMONY!!

September 9, 2016 | By | No Comments


You can have the best intentions like I should visit my Mom more, or I really need to volunteer at church. BIG Stinking DEAL if you don’t act on them!

I have driven by Harmony Hall no less then a 1000 times thinking “Dang, I gots to meet Chef Gabe Araujo”! Not only do my wife and I crave his braunschweiger dip, we actually had our first date at the Harmony in Eastown!

But I digest!

We were fortunate enough to have one of Harmony’s employees sign up for the Kitchen Sage Spring Session. Tyler Chaffee started with Chef Gabe as a dish dawg. Tyler then came to us to further his career because he lived in our neighborhood and wanted a faster track. He loved his job, he just wanted to take the initiative to climb that ladder. And man has this young man climbed! Chef Gabe has really taken our kitchensager under his wing after Tyler proved his intent with work ethic and follow through. Tyler is now a prep cook and training to work the line. When I asked Tyler how he liked the extra dough, he rebutted something that made me so proud of our neighborhood:

“Chef, I like the money, but Chef Gabe and I prep together every Tuesday. Its just he and I and we work it. I am going to be working the line soon”

So can we intend to do something, but until we follow through, we are just talking through our @$#! So I finally stopped my car, climbed the stairs and met Chef. Amazing how much all of us have the same intent on giving our young adults opportunity, Chef Gabe lives it.

Again, Chef Gabe, THANK YOU! Tyler, Get to Work!!

In the Trenches with Mentor!
In the Trenches

08 Sep


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Grad Party, Rehearsal Dinner, Partner!

September 8, 2016 | By | No Comments


If you ask any Kitchen Sage Alumni what the most important thing is, they should respond with “RELATIONSHIPS”. If there is anything I hold most dear is the relationships I have with all of you.

You know what is cool about this pic?

The guy on the right is our latest graduate from Kitchen Sage. Victor received a 93% on his ServSafe test and has been a model student. Plus he is just a cool young man!

The guy on the left and I met when he was Victor’s age. Jake and I met while I was catering his HS graduation party, thus cementing my relationship with his family. Over the years I have been honored to feed the O’Rourke family countless times with nothing but hospitality. Then the graduate becomes a man and I am again honored to do his rehearsal dinner.

Fast forward a couple years and here Jake is a partner of the community, helping young adults find opportunities in the field I love so much, hospitality.

Not to sound patronizing, but seriously proud to know these young men. Work force development from the neighborhood(mic drop) BOOM! Thank you Jake and the SCORE!

06 Sep


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I know, I missed you too!

September 6, 2016 | By | No Comments

Working Like a Blue DOG!
Working Like A Blue DOG!!
Did you like my “hi!”? Well it has been so long since I blogged that Word Press needed some revamping. Thanks Kujenga for letting me use a “hi” to make sure we were back “on the line”!

You know it seems like the last time we talked, David Hood climbed a mountain to support us! I want to assure you that I have been working very diligently to make Kitchen Sage a safe place were young adults can break ground on a career in the culinary field.

You know that’s what we are trying to do here is to give our neighborhood youth an opportunity for work force development. We called it babysitting, mowing the lawn, painting the neighbor’s house, and a series of odd jobs we did in our youth to make extra money. That was the gift our neighbors gave us, opportunity. And boy was there a cost in that opportunity. Our neighbors knew that they would have a babysitter fall asleep, a not-so-perfect cut, spilled paint, and a leather tape measure dropped in the Thornapple River. Those were just a micro, nano list of the tolerance that was given to me as a young man.

I hear parents say they would never make their kid do these tasks because they hated them so much. What lessons are being handed down now if we only hire professionals to do these tasks? I think that when we lighten the load sometimes, that makes the muscles not as strong. And really, don’t we want are young adults curious about their future, willing to learn from their mistakes, and STRONG?

So many apologies and appreciation to Peg Inman and the rest of my neighbors! You knew the cost of work-force development before it became cool!