Kitchen Magic

“Anyone can cook,” said Chef Gusteau in Pixar’s 2007 animated film, “Ratatouille.” Well, anyone with a kitchen, that is.

It’s hard to believe that an organization like Central Texas Food Bank (CTFB) that distributed more than 38 million pounds of food last year didn’t have a kitchen as part of the operations. But that changed in June 2016, when we moved into our new facility. The space includes a state-of-the-art, 4,200 square-foot production kitchen, which includes three combi ovens (ovens that use both convection and steam), five 40-gallon tilt skillets, three 80-gallon tilt kettles, four blast chillers and a refrigerated room for cold meal assembly.

We began meal production in October 2016—taking rescued produce (that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill) and other nutritious food items and turning them into frozen meals, thus extending their shelf life and providing additional meals to thousands of Central Texans in need.

To supplement the fresh produce supply and meal production, the new facility also includes garden spaces that CTFB began using this past spring.

In June, CTFB started preparing meals for the USDA Child Nutrition Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and in August, began cooking nutritious meals for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). But we’re not stopping there. Other programs designed to make use of this amazing resource will include a free culinary training program to help those interested in culinary careers.

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Moving forward, we hope to see the kitchen become a showcase operation for the organization, as well as a culinary hub for the community. Earlier this year, the Food Bank hosted the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Region 13 “Meal Appeal University” for school food service managers and the Texas Restaurant Association’s Culinary Educators Training Conference for high school culinary teachers. Local culinary colleges have visited, and CTFB is now hosting their students as they complete required externships. As the students go into the local workforce, they take with them the message of the important work the CTFB is doing in this new arena. The kitchen has also drawn in local celebrity chefs, such as Tyson Cole and Jack and Bryce Gilmore, to tour the facility and take part in events, and it will surely become a central location for other culinary events in the community.

Want to experience the CTFB’s community kitchen in action? Find out how your efforts can help feed our neighbors in need, at centraltexasfoodbank.org/volunteer.

By Kimberly Granato, LD, RD, Executive Chef • Photography courtesy of the Central Texas Food Bank