Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Jan Fonger

14 May


No Comments

Tommy, time to get get schooled by GRPS!

May 14, 2013 | By | No Comments

With everyone pointing the finger at GRPS and judging them, I decided to give the finger to myself!!  So I asked David Allen to introduce me to his friends at GRPS. I really believe that I could be a part of a solution, not the problem and I wanted them to know I was in their corner. I have to tell you I was a bit intimidated by the whole thing.  Were the powers at be going to recognize my sincerity behind Kitchen Sage, or look at my ideas as a completely ridiculous chef with crazy hopes of Home Economics returning to our culture?  Worst yet, would they think that I was stepping on their toes or just being another judgmental idiot. I really needed the KITCHEN SAGErs, Jan and David to be with me in this meeting, so as to translate my intent. So in the middle of all the JuiceBall fun, we get an appointment with Ron Gormin, John Helmholt, and Paul Baumgartner.

Man was I overwhelmed with the response!  Not only did they like the idea, but they wanted to figure out how they could be a part of it!  So we figured this relationship could start off with Tommy sitting down with Paul Baumgartner, the MAN that heads up GRPS nutrition center.  First thing, lets get Tommy over to the GRPS Nutrition Center ASAP to see what Paul does for a living. This made perfect sense and I have to tell you that it was absolutely inspiring what was going on there!

Remember when you were a kid and mom was infamous with the way she snuck veggies into your food?  Well everyone, here is Paul Baumgartner!  Not only does he utilize some of the best systems in PREPARING food for OUR children, he is inventing those systems along the way. All the while using fresh ingredients and emphasizing local products as well.  For the love of God, he is sneaking broccoli into the Mac and Cheese! He is utilizing MICHIGAN beans into our kids’ diets because they are not only local, cost effective, but they also pack a nutritional punch.  The first day I met Paul, he was figuring out how he could rinse off the beans in the soup kettle for ease and efficiency. I would love Jamie Oliver to see his operation, he would cry like a baby(for a good reason!).  If anyone knows Jamie, give him a shout out he would appreciate all the good stuff here in GR!

Paul and I had so much in common and he has such a wealth of knowledge, all for the asking!  I love the fact that he doesn’t mince words!  My vision was all about accountability, a sense of urgency, and participation. Paul is making me own it! His mentorship has propelled my vision so fast and far, sometimes I need to catch my breath. From the actual curriculum, to understanding my audience, Paul is waking that love of education that has been so dormant in me for so long. There is so much more to write about Paul, but we are in the throws of designing and negotiating for our new space! In the mean time, Paul and GRPS Nutrition Center is the the official temporary Kitchen for Kitchen Sage!

Why wait for the bricks a mortar? Why can’t we start educating our kids immediately? How about July 8th, 2013?….That just happened!

Thank you GRPS for Paul Baumgartner! You are definitely my FIRST choice!!

John Helmholt



08 May


No Comments

You Get that Sage Means Wise Right?

May 8, 2013 | By | No Comments

And Sage is what we needed if my vision was going to be a reality.  I needed two more board members that could help me define my intent, because that is the first thing you need to do is define what you are trying to achieve.  Not only did I need definition, but I also needed translation!  Everyone that has met me will tell you that sometimes I get off point!  (oh a butterfly!….)

I first looked to Jan Schwartz Fonger.  Jan and I worked on several projects and had a riot on each one(her wit is sharper than any knife in my kitchen!).  Jan actually helped me with the paperwork to start off Kitchen Sage! She was real.  Not to bring in the Jewish thing, but she totally reminds me of my wicked smart sister Kathleen who converted years ago. Kathleen’s in-laws are a Seinfeld episode! I have been to 17 passovers as chef and family and it is the highlight of my year.  When we do the seder, the part that strikes me to my core is this:  Unless ALL of us are free, NONE of us are free.  Free from ignorance, free from hunger, free from selfishness. These words have woven themselves into my fabric, ALL of us! We are one race with many cultures.  Why do we take our greatest asset as a race and treat it like our greatest liability? It breaks my heart when we justify our sinister actions through our faiths.  If it is one thing that I have realized since my family has such a diverse belief system that, ITS THE SAME GOD! Just different MARKETING REPS! We are all one! So with Jan it made all too perfect sense. I wanted, no needed some of that Old Jewish wisdom from a not so old lady if Kitchen Sage were to embrace ALL of Grand Rapids. I put on my Catholic Guilt look and she joined immediately!!

Ok, people are going to talk!  The last choice for a board member had to be a man!  I needed some testosterone other than me.  I had to make sure this guy could keep up with the ladies!  Also I needed a guy that had no other agenda than to make Kitchen Sage a reality.  He had to be passionate about food and already tied into my neighborhood. I knew I needed David Allen.  You can’t swing a frying pan without touching some non-profit that David hasn’t touched.  And a golden touch it was!  Thats really how David and I met and it happened to be in his kitchen which had all the markings of a chef. His passion for education, his neighborhood, and food was the trifecta for KS. The only problem, his wife(and for good reason!)  David always is involved, whether its leading kids from his church, to building better neighborhoods, the guy gets around! I knew Donna was a saint, but ANOTHER project for Dave?  But I also knew I could play the “I did your daughter’s wedding!” card just in case.  Without hesitation David said “Yes” and in the same breath,”Donna’s gonna kill me” Don’t worry kids, David is safe and sound, Donna loves Kitchen Sage, and the sun still shines!  About 2 seconds after my “lobbying” David had set up a meeting immediately with Paul Baumgartner head of GRPS Culinary, along with John Helmholt, and Ron Garmin, the Three Amigos of GRPS! Because in all reality, GRPS WAS my choice I wanted to get them on board first. I was so sick of all the negativity towards my school system, the blame was on me, how can I be a part of the solution?

logo_placeholderJohn Helmholt


New challenge:”How in the world am I gonna sell this to GRPS, are they going to take me seriously?”………