2016: A Look Back


Copyright Sarah Gilbert
In our early years, while we targeted job placement or further training as outcomes, we saw that our programs helped our participants gain confidence. We realized that intangible outcomes such as increased comfort in public speaking and confidence were just as important to getting jobs and advancing as hard skills are. Through the deli apprenticeship program, we realized that a longer format hands on experience would be more beneficial than our 6 week skills training for skill retention as well as for skills that could lead to more advanced positions in a commercial kitchen. While many of our participants wanted jobs in the food industry, many shared their dreams of opening their own food business.

Throughout this year there was a constant stream of news regarding the Syrian refugee crisis and the highly divisive Presidential election. There was much portrayal of refugees and immigrants in a negative light. It’s always been a part of the Project Feast mission to be a platform for intercultural exchange. This year, we were determined to take our community events to the next level.These realizations led us to creating an outline for Project Feast 2.0: a more intensive and longer culinary training wrapped around running a small restaurant and creating a myriad of opportunities for deep intercultural dialogue.

We ran into many challenges this year predominantly with finding the type of commercial kitchen space in South King County that would meet our needs and budget. This search confirmed the need for our type of programming especially in South King County. Our experience finding a space and experiencing the hassles of finding contractors for installing commercial hoods for instance, will make us better mentors for our apprentices and graduates as they follow the next steps to make their dreams a reality.

We’re excited to share that

1.     We found the perfect space for a small restaurant in downtown Kent and the necessary remodeling is now underway.
2.     Developed curriculum for a 4 month intensive culinary training program that meets for 5 hours every day.
3.     Gained accreditation for our apprenticeship program through Highline College.
4.     Launched Potluck for Peace and Migrating Meals
5.     Hired Executive Chef Lisa Nakamura
6.     Raised $25K in donations and matching and $70K for launching the apprenticeship program and building our capacity next year

Today, we are poised to launch the new apprenticeship program in mid January and open the café to the public in mid February. We look forward to a busy year with graduating many apprentices, deepening our partnerships, continuing our community events and fostering dialogue.

Your support has been invaluable. We hope you will continue to follow us, attend our events, hire us for catering, and invest in our platform for empowering refugee and immigrant cooks. 

Download the full report below.
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PictureAnnie with Mohinga. Copyright Merrill Images
Yesterday’s snow was a reminder that winter is right around the corner. In addition to the bleak weather, many Americans are worried about the direction the US is taking and fear for their safety and all that they hold dear. As we work to accept our reality, the work ahead of us lies in community re-building. How do we live and work with people we disagree with politically. How do we accept views that seem fundamentally different from our own? How do we stay engaged in the tough work ahead of us to shape our future while taking care of ourselves.

bell hooks sums it up perfectly: “In evoking that sense of breaking bread, we call upon the various traditions of sharing that take place in domestic, secular, and sacred life where we come together to give of ourselves to one another fully, to nurture life, to renew our spirits, sustain our hope”

While I reminisce about the many meals we have shared with so many of you, I thought of Annie Philit, a refuge from Burma who I had the pleasure of meeting and learning some personal recipes from. I heard recently that Annie’s family moved away to eastern Washington in search of better jobs and more affordable housing. I was sad that I didn’t get to say good bye. One of the times that Annie helped us, was to share her recipes with a group of 15 women that had gathered to experience Burmese cuisine. One of the dishes that we cooked that day was Mohinga, perhaps the national dish of Burma. I share this recipe as it feels like the perfect dish to warm up on a cold winter day and to nourish our souls as we continue to work towards a stronger community. The photos were taken by our host and professional photographer Lisa Merrill.

Download the Mohinga recipe below. 

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executive chef lisa nakamuraCopyright Jackie Donnelly
We are pleased to welcome Executive Chef Lisa Nakamura to the Project Feast team!  Lisa has more than twenty years of experience in the food industry ranging from her first cooking job working for Lisa Dupar to several Executive Chef positions to opening two of her own restaurants, Allium on Orcas Island and Gnocchi Bar on Capitol Hill. Lisa’s experience includes fine dining having worked for Thomas Keller at Napa Valley’s French Laundry as well as casual dining most recently at Gnocchi Bar. She has worked as a Chef in Munich, Germany as well as in Seoul, South Korea and truly understands what it is like to work internationally while not speaking the local language. While running a kitchen is already a high stress job, Lisa can claim to have done it under the added duress of Hurricane Katrina when she found herself needing to take over the kitchen at a hotel in New Orleans on day 5 of a new job.

Lisa is from Hilo, Hawaii and has a BS in Botany from Arizona State University. She graduated top of her class from Maryland’s L’Academie de Cuisine in 1995. Furry animals and kind people are some of Lisa’s favorite things.

As Project Feast’s Executive Chef, Lisa will lead the Project Feast training café in Kent, WA that we will launch to the public in February as well as our catering program. With Lisa joining our team, we look forward to phenomenal year ahead.