Liberty's Kitchen (www.libertyskitchen.org) held the opening celebration for its second location on the third floor of the Freeport-McMoRan building (1615 Poydras St.) on June 1. with a party with students and staff and hors d'oeuvres by chefs Alon Shaya and Susan Spicer.
Liberty's Kitchen is a nonprofit organization that "provides New Orleans' young people with pathways to create and achieve their vision of success through workforce training, leadership development, and support of healthy lifestyles," according to its mission statement.
The organization offers job training to 100 young adults per year and provides ongoing support and leadership development to alumni. It serves 3,500 nutritious school meals daily at its partner school sites.
At the grand opening, Youth Success Director Dennis Bagneris said the new location will help young people build on what they learned at the Broad Street location.
"We want to be able to get them to come into these environments and work hand-in-hand with the people who are actually running, organizing and maintaining this business so they get a sense of understanding what it means to run, organize and maintain this kind of business," Bagneris said.
Tevin Clark graduated from Liberty's Kitchen in 2010 and went on to work at several restaurants for six years. His experience at Liberty's Kitchen prepared him to go back to school and study his passion, visual art. Liberty's Kitchen made that possible, he says.
"Most of all, it teaches you hard work and dedication," Clark says. "It teaches you how to finish an assignment that was assigned to you and how to be a leader. I thank them for that every chance I get,"
BreAnn Pieklo graduated from the program on June 2.
"Liberty's Kitchen taught me being in work, being myself, having a voice, learning about cooking and also (how to work) in a stressful environment," Pieklo said.
The lasting impacts of the program for her went beyond the kitchen. "Between our extern- and internship, they have us do resume and cover letters, and I learned more computer skills," Pieklo said.
Dean Falgoust, president of Freeport-McMoRan Services, reached out to Liberty's Kitchen to revitalize the building's cafeteria.
"I think [when] it started out, we were just brainstorming about looking for a different way to do things with the cafeteria," Falgoust says. "We were aware of Liberty's Kitchen. It's one of the charities that we support through United Way and other organizations."
Liberty Kitchen Executive Director David Emond summed up the focus of the Poydras location.
"We are not in the business of making sure that our favorite restaurants have line cooks and dishwashers," Emond says. "We are in the business of making sure that those who have been left behind get a chance to share in the prosperity of the city that we all know and love."