Chef Carrie Shores is no stranger to food-based nonprofit organizations; she was the chef at Work Options for Women for several years before getting back into restaurants last year. Shores left WOW to head the kitchen at Lacuna, which opened last year as a vegan cafe, juice bar and yoga studio; it closed this past spring.
While Lacuna was another unfortunate casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, the availability of Shores turned out to be a good thing for SAME Cafe, the nonprofit lunch eatery at 2023 East Colfax Avenue that offers a pay-what-you-can menu. Letisha Steele, the operations officer and chef at SAME, says the organization had received a grant to hire another culinary professional at the beginning of the year. "We started our job-training program about a year ago and got some funding to hire someone to handle the program," Steele explains, adding that the Cook to Work culinary and education program manager position had just become open.
The choice was obvious for Steele, and she quickly welcomed Shores on board. "Carrie and I have been such good friends over the past twelve years," Steele notes. "She loves teaching, especially people who may not have access to a traditional culinary education."
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The training program starts with health and safety and also includes knife skills "and all the baking and cooking from scratch that we do — skills people need to get their foot in the door," Steele says. The free classes are geared toward "folks who have found themselves homeless or haven't been in a situation to hold a steady job," she adds. "It's a stepping stone from a place of chaos to a place of stability."
The cafe itself has recently received some upgrades, including new floors in the kitchen and dining room, which is currently closed to in-house dining. But Steele says they've been able to expand the patio, thanks to getting a little extra space from Mulberry Cake Shop next door.
You can also catch the SAME Cafe food truck every Wednesday at the pay-what-you-can farmers' market at 3459 Ringsby Court, organized by Focus Points Family Resource Center and Lost City, a coffee shop in the TAXI development. See the SAME Cafe website for more details on the Cook to Work training program.