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Kitchen Blog

20 Mar


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Wow! Thank you Mercantile Bank for this opportunity!

March 20, 2015 | By | No Comments

Every day I am amazed at the opportunities for Steepletown to grow!  If you take two seconds to click on this link, Mercantile Bank will see how much you love the West Side and give Steepletown Neighborhood Services $5000!

I know you get a ton of these, but we really need this money to expand our reach of education and employability.  Each vote for us is a vote AGAINST entitlement!

Happy Friday!  Get out the VOTE, we will make you proud! Voting ends this Monday!

19 Mar


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There is a new drug hitting the WEST SIDE called T3 (and we need more dealers!)

March 19, 2015 | By | No Comments

Boy, if you missed last night’s Taste of the West Side don’t feel bad, you can still get up on this new drug.  T3 is something we already have.  When activated, it can give us a euphoria that rivals any chemical on the planet.  I still have it in my system because I just can’t come down.  Even after killing the event with the all the volunteers, working so hard, so late, I am still high!  It prompted me to leave an hour early for work today because I wanted the preschoolers to have the freshest berries with their cheesy eggs, ham, milk, and juice.

You see T3 is a mixture of TIME, TALENT, AND TREASURE.  I am sure you have heard of it and have probably utilized it from time to time.

Today’s blog is a reminder for us all how fulfilling it is to build up the community with any of these three ingredients. And trust me, I have been burned by people that I was trying to build up. Do I hate panhandlers as a whole, absolutely.  Do I hate the drunks that love to pass out in our neighborhood only to waste EMS, Fire, or Police resources for their own personal “wake up call”. Do I despise this demographic of under-educated, under-skilled, and OVER entitled young adults? Sure, but at the end of the day we can “deal” our T3 drug without reservation because we know that everyone of us needs this drug to live a purposeful life.

My dear friend Dick Bulkowski quoted something from the bible via Martin Luther King Jr last night that gave me a shot of T3.  Often times when we see these people we justify our complacency, and we ask ourselves, “if I give this person my T3, will they waste it, abuse it, or try to steal more of it?  That is when we have to remember to REVERSE the question and ask,”If I don’t offer up my T3, what will happen to this person?

The brilliance of T3 is in its abundance!  We all have it, sometime we have more, sometimes we have less.  But rest assured it is a renewable and a sustainable resource.

So with humbling gratitude, thank you to all the hospitality professionals, volunteers, The Franciscan Sisters, and STEEPLETOWN for last night, my T3 is off the charts!

18 Mar


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Taste of the West Side…Best Stone Soup EVER!

March 18, 2015 | By | No Comments

So this year The Taste of the West Side that benefits Steepletown Neighborhood Services has two village idiots facilitating the event: Chef Justin Stermin and Chef Tommy FitzGerald. Since we are all about collaboration, why not have the KS Students not just serve the event, but help in the prep of the actual menu?  The collaboration with our local businesses is the keystone of what we are about. Our new “What’s Next?” tag line is all about employability, so why not get the students with the employer’s immediately?  These entities are so committed to serving our community above and beyond their menus.

Tacos El Cunado! Doing their infamous tacos, Thank you Mario’s Mom!



The Franciscan Sistas! Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Colleen Ann working their Amazing Bread(and Grace)!


Jimmy Kline rocking the pulled pork and his “Mini Apples”!!










Dave and Sharon From the Blue Dog! Jambalaya BABY!!


JENNA! MY BOO! Looking Skinny with those PHAT Desserts!!


Jeff Duba with Heritage meats!  Showing off His Scottish Look for his Scottish Chili!!


LAURA!! That Polish Girl with That Talent!  Pierogies, Bigos (Hunter’s Stew), and Kielbasa. No wonder she’s hanging with “OUR CARNIVORES”! (Pushing a little salad, like a polish mom!)



Another Thank You to Salvatore’s!  Though we have not been able to mix it up in their kitchen, we are passing their amazing pizza pies as a treat!

As you can see, there is more than enough room for all to add their special “spice” to Kitchen Sage!



18 Mar


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An Irishman Walks into a Polish Butcher Shop…..

March 18, 2015 | By | No Comments

On St. Patrick’s Day, I went into Frank’s Meats on Fulton street.  Since we moved to the Basilica Center I have taken notice that these Polish Westsiders take old school pride with the new “Local” movement.  This time at Frank’s, I had the opportunity to meet Fritz, one of the proprietors.  Now I know why everyone speaks so highly of this little west side gem. Fritz knows his meat!  Not only that, but he knows his clientele, even the guy that is totally Irish.  Fritz made me aware of his Irish Bangers(Irish Kielbasa).  Holy Schnickees! These bangers were spot on! Hints of All Spice and Bay took me back to Donegal Ireland where I had my first banger and second tattoo!

I took these bad boys home to my lovely German-Polish fiancé and showed her a side of Ireland beyond corned beef!

All I did was sauté the bangers in a little olive in a big pot with tons of room.  Then I threw in a small head of red cabbage chopped in 1 1/2 inch pieces or so. Add a red onion all chopped up, don’t care how you do it! Gently sauté all, covered! I always throw in a little vinegar(pick your favorite!) with a little salt and pepper to taste.  As vinegar cooks down or reduces, the acids evaporate and the sugars remain.  Take note of that when want more sweet or sour!  Add some redskined mashers and you are in Ireland.  Thank you Fritz for showing a little love to the west side’s latest Irish immigrant!

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11 Mar


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How cool is the WEST SIDE?

March 11, 2015 | By | No Comments

Other than the fact that the Polish here at Steepletown have no regards for the plight of the Irishman the day after St. Patrick’s Day, The West Side is the Best Side. This year The Taste of the West Side is March 18, leaving me to a CALM March 17th, the day of my people!  But this year I am happy to put aside that extra Guinness to prep for a killer event.


This year is extra special for me since this is the first year KITCHEN SAGE heads up and organizes all the culinary treats for the TASTE. And truly what makes the TASTE so special are the partnerships with the local eateries that are forged with the Students of Kitchen Sage.  Here is the skinny on a PHAT event!

Jeff Duba with Heritage Meats is doing his FAMOUS Scottish Highland Chili

Mike Jermstad with Blue Dog is doing their ridiculous Jambalaya

Tacos El Cunado and Mario Cascante are doing a Loco Taqueria

Jimmy Kline doing a wicked pulled pork over roasted apple

THE Franciscan Sisters knocking out the “NUNS BUNS”!!

That Polish Girl loving us with Pierogies and Kielbasa!

Kitchen Sagers pimpin 16ft of Salads and Veggies!

(I am thinking some corned beef and Cabbage to offer up as protest as well!)

And on the tables, THE HEART OF AMORE, Chef Jenna’s Desserts!


All of these neighbors are taking the time to pass on their own SAGE with the incredible Spring Team of KS and we couldn’t be more appreciative.  Of course all the fellowship of the night combined with a multitude of auction items(like Mic Carlson ART!) make for a great, delicious, and inspiring evening.

Kitchen Sage and Steepletown, Two Great Tastes that Taste Great TOGETHER!



Doors at the GOEI Center open at 5pm, finishing with presentations at 7pm. CHEERS to the PEOPLE of the WEST SIDE!

11 Mar


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How about just a Couple Recipes? It is IRISH SEASON!!

March 11, 2015 | By | No Comments

The more and more I blog I realize that I do have limitations!  Sometimes people just want me to shut up so they can eat my food!  So here you go, Two of my favorite recipes from my peoples!



Last year’s “Arch Villain” Leprechaun with Stella!

Corned Beef and LOVE!

2 cups baby carrots

3 Green apples wedged

2 cups chopped celery (inch pieces)

2 cups onions wedged

5-8 pound beef brisket (if not corned, add 2 Tablespoons pickling Spice)

Pepper only to taste! Corned Beef has a ton of salt!  Salt to taste at the table only!

Put all ingredients into deep roasting pan, fill with water 1 inch from the top. Feel free to add one of your favorite beers..Guinness is Goodness!

Now cover tightly with lid, OR cellophane, then FOIL.  This will create a steam barrier.

Roast overnight at 250 degrees. About 7 hours!

The smell in the morning will force you into a corned beef hash and eggs breakfast!

Note, Feel free to roast WHOLE potatoes in this mix

DO not put your cabbage in the roaster overnight.  With the stock, boil your cabbage the next day before serving dinner!  Do not over boil, you want you cabbage tender, not mushy!

I always take the mushy cabbage and mash them with the potatoes the next day for a quick version of Colcannon.

Colcannon is traditional bacon, mashers, and cabbage as one mash.  I love it!


Happy St. Patricks Day!!



06 Mar


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Here’s a new GROCERY List:

March 6, 2015 | By | No Comments

As much as I teach, I am learning more.  One main thought that I stress throughout the course is that definition is the first step; define your situation, define your surroundings, and define your goals.  Since I am big on metaphors,  a Grocery List would a be perfect representation of the things that we always need, some more than others, depending on the time or situation.  Just like every week we may need milk?Or maybe we have enough eggs.  These life ingredients are no different.  Sometimes there are points in your life you are less confident, or you are eating healthier and working out. All these “ingredients” need to be stocked up when they get low.

Feel free add your own ingredients, but here is a start:

On the Grocery List of Life:

What’s needed?

Work Ethic
Sense of Urgency
Communication Skills
Life Skills
Nutritional Awareness
Marketable Skills/ Networking
Giving Back
All the ingredients are here in our Kitchen!
Right here and Right now the ingredients are already depleting.
Student or Teacher, EVERYONE has a list. What’s Next On YOUR List?

We Have a 3 things we need from others on ours all the time:

1. To be a Champion for our Cause

2. To Invite Others to be Engaged

3.To make an investment in our Impact



05 Mar


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Those that say “I Was Born Ready” are full of IT!

March 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

ONE way that we support our mission of Kitchen Sage is by providing catering services to all sorts of events around town. This week we hosted an event Ready For Life right here in the Basilica Center. Ready For Life is an amazing mission that helps people with DIFFERENT ABILITIES achieve the goals of education and independence.

As my students served these amazing individuals, I pointed out that something was familiar. The students quickly responded with their take on the evening. They felt that there was not much difference between the RFL students and the KS students. Sure there were some different scenarios, but at the end of the day, all had the hope of education, autonomy, and community.

Then Erin Cunningham spoke! She shared her story of an educational system putting limits on her son because of his “disability”(man I hate that word!) and basically sentenced him to a life without education, autonomy, and community. Her defining moment of the speech was not just the fact that her family proved the idiot administrator wrong, but her testimonial that we all need each other.

Of course our mission of Kitchen Sage is steeped in creating autonomy or independence from entitlement through education, but it is the community and the relationships that get one to the next level. If it wasn’t for family, friends, and Steepletown, Kitchen Sage would be just another frustration instead of the blooming mission that it is. To all of you reading this, Thank YOU! Obviously you share some of my concerns. So let me throw one more thing at you. By combining resources with Ready For Life we:

Provided a 5 Star fundraiser for another mission, but
Received Culinary Curriculum for us, but
Took those proceeds and bought new tables for our venue so we could host more events, but
Had Tom Heitz (RFL Executive Director!) offer up painting the dining room, but
KS met other like minded individuals who had different resources for KS, but
Utilized a future pastry Chef (a Catholic Central Student) for desserts promoting her passion, BUT
BUT the list goes on! Thank you for your vision RFL!

So in closing, NO ONE is Born Ready, It takes all of us to build each other up. and maybe, just MAYBE we all can be a little more READY FOR LIFE!

Getting Ready for READY FOR LIFE!         NEW Paint, NEW Tables, NEW Friends!


02 Mar


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There is a Bigger Ghetto in Grand Rapids than I thought.

March 2, 2015 | By | No Comments

Often when we hear the word “ghetto” images of a neighborhood that most of us just want to roll up the windows in our car and drive through as soon as we can pop in our head. I am seeing a different type of ghetto and it stretches for miles.

I am talking about this “ghetto” of ignorance.  Just because someone is taking steps to change their situation, what and where they come from can be a bigger issue.  There is a level of comfort with chaos that is familiar. The chaos or mentality of the quick and easy buck is rampant in every student that I mentor. Some of my students admit getting that buck anyway they can.  So how do I impress on my students the value of honest money, when there are so many options to make an easier buck? This is what I am a doing thus far:

1. Risk VS Reward. A tried and true foundation of all business practices. Someone needs to point out that if the risk out weighs the reward, what’s the point? This especially hits home to those students that have already had business dealings that went bad, or worst yet intervened by the legal system.

2. Making them spend an hour with a tutor or in the lab with their studies for every hour they work with us outside the program.  We are just starting to implement this because we pay our students very well to be a part of our catering. Our catering is what is supporting our mission, so I am happy to pay them accordingly.  The issue with this compensation platform is that now that the students are making good money, the value of their education is being diminished.

3. Relationships!  Duh, the cornerstone of all my success has been providing a sincere product that over delivers.  Some time I even put out a olive branch first.  If that branch yields a benefit to me, then it is time to initiate another to keep the relationship going. The students MUST get this point, or we are failing them.

And finally, I preach, I mean REALLY preach that all that glitters is NOT gold.  That making broke look good often is so much better than having all the money.  I would rather have many people having my back, than many greenbacks!

With that being said, does anyone have any ideas how to work on the over entitlement of today’s youth? When I say over entitlement, I mean the sense that “the world owes me everything”, when we know that the opposite is true. How do we take these students and tell them competition is good? There are winners and losers, and being an achiever is not bad. I seriously had to guide one of my students this week in the fact that being the best is worthy of praise. So how do WE combat this mentality that success is just selling out and the guy with the most money wins?




27 Feb


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Bragging, NOT complaining!

February 27, 2015 | By | No Comments


Along with the curriculum, the catering, the Five Star Fish Fry, and the Steepletown Curriculum, the Kitchen Sage Team is rocking it! So next week we have the Home and Garden Show! The KS team has a whole weekend of fun with our besties!



Friday March 6, MY boo, Chef Jenna from Amore is doing the floral competition and if you cheer the loudest, Kitchen Sage gets some $ from 5/3 bank, so please come and support us.  She will be on the Home Stage starting at 5:30. After that, see my students and me give you a grilling demo at the DTE grilling deck.  Stop by for a special “Jenna” snack! We are located in the “Ghetto” of Angus Campbell, just below his stage. To tell you the truth, it is a perfect fit for me. I am proud to have such an amazing chef, educator, and mentor right here in Grand Rapids. Any face time with the man is just a bonus for my KS team and me. Flowers, Snack, EDUCATION! All in one hour!! Oh and Free!


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Sunday March 8, Nick Heyboer and his Association of Grand Rapids Landscape Professionals are hosting a brunch to support Kitchen Sage.  They are putting up the resources to have our KS Team cook up a breakfast to rival even Amore’s Killer Brunch! Starting at 9am you can get into the show early and dine around his Cinderella inspired Garden!!  This is what the Students are cooking up:

Eggs Dragged through the Garden!

Have the students do a scramble with your choice of fresh ingredients

Sausage Meatloaf

Butcher’s Selection of Meats….YES BACON TOO!

Bananas Foster’s French Toast

Harvest Selection of the Freshest Fruit

OH and lots more..

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Seriously, you have to RSVP!  So email me! I can VIP ya!


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