Last year, the Squeaky Bean Farm + Table had little time to pick up the Thanksgiving Feed torch laid down after Rosa Linda's Mexican Restaurant closed. The Aguirre family that owned Rosa Linda's had organized a feast to feed the needy every Thanksgiving Day for three decades, but Squeaky Bean co-owners Josh Olsen and Johnny Ballen had only a few weeks once they decided to take over the event. This year, though, things are going smoothly, so they are anticipating being able to feed for more people at their restaurant at 1500 Wynkoop Street and will also have a wider reach for meals delivered.
The cooking is already under way as hundreds of turkeys are prepped and roasted, sweet potatoes are boiled and green beans are turned into casserole. The majority of the work is taking place in the educational kitchen at Warren Tech High School in Lakewood, where Olsen maintains a vegetable farm and teaches students about sustainable farming.
All weekend and though this week, Denver chefs continue to show up up to lend a hand. This morning, Dana Rodriguez, executive chef at Work & Class, was at Warren Tech to break down turkeys (Olsen's method involves removing the breastbone and rib cage before roasting) and lend a hand in front of the stoves. "It's about love," she says of why she's now on her second year volunteering for the feast. "You have to do something. We're healthy, we have a bed to sleep in — not everyone has that."
The majority of volunteers have been helping with the feast for years; others are recent Warren Tech graduates, current students, staff and even the high school's principle, Joe Shaw. Other chefs giving time include Darren Pusateri (the Squeaky Bean), Tim Dotson (most recently of TAG), Lon Symensma (ChoLon), Justin Brunson (Old Major), Adam Brantz (Bistro Vendôme), Josh Chesterson (Honor Society) and many others.
We Don't Waste donated 200 turkeys and the use of a refrigerated truck; Generator Real Estate & Development added another 100 turkeys; and food distributor Italco has also donated food and supplies. Johnson & Wales University and Project Angel Heart are contributing pies and other pastries, and Kaladi Coffee Roasters is donating coffee. Overall, Olsen says, the team hopes to feed about 1,000 people at the Squeaky Bean and up to 5,000 more with meals delivered to shelters, Section 8 housing (through the Denver Housing Authority) and on the streets. The weather is expected to be much better than last year's frigid conditions, which means that the feast will be able to reach more individuals and feed a larger group at the restaurant.
While volunteer spots for the Thanskgiving Feed are full, monetary donations are still welcome. Donations can be made on the Squeaky Bean website or through We Don't Waste, an organization that redistributes food from restaurants and other food-service venues to those in need. And true to its name, We Don't Waste will also be taking any unused food from this event and using it for future efforts.