Back in March of last year a friend finally talked me into volunteering with her at SAME Cafe. Taryn had been telling me that I would really like it there because I would get to use my chef skills in a real kitchen and that the cause was worthwhile. I had no idea what an impact this simple action would have on me.
On my first day of volunteering, I thought I would spend my time impressing everyone with my chef-ly skills. I got after that onion and those carrots, made a fine brunoise (chopped vegetables). Followed the recipe for the whole wheat pizza dough and watched as Brad ate a raw piece to determine if it had a proper rise. I had to have a taste of course (tasted like raw dough to me). Rolled out that dough into perfectly round crusts (the only thing that might have impressed anyone). Somehow, and I can’t remember why, I found myself up front helping to serve the clients. And I fell in love.
Willie was squinting at the menu board with all his might. And he had a grumpy look on his face. Something told me to read the menu to him and I did in a way that was just like asking a question, “Would you like summer squash or creamy potato soup? Strawberry and feta salad or mixed greens with tomatoes? Brie and bacon pizza or roasted veggie?” He turned and looked at me and I was rewarded with an almost toothless grin. Taryn later told me she had never seen that man smile.
By working up front I get to see first hand what this Cafe is really all about. Treating everyone with dignity and respect regardless of their station in life. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I have the pleasure of greeting and serving anywhere from 65 to 90 people. Some are business women and men, some are starving artists and some are folk who look like life has beaten them up a little. We take whatever they can afford, be it a $20 bill or two, a couple of dollars or some work around the restaurant. We serve them really great, healthful food that is almost always organic or all-natural. And there is always a choice.
SAME has certainly taught this chef a thing or two. Make the best use of the ingredients you have on hand. Properly risen dough does taste different than just plain raw dough. And while rolling a perfect pizza crust can be valuable, offering a smile and kind words can feed a person, too.