By Web Master, 5-06-12
I’ve always had a passion for cooking. For many years, I’ve cooked for large groups, whether it be Wednesday night dinners or pastor’s retreats for my church. But one day, a pastor, who ran a culinary training program for the homeless in Knoxville, Tenn., asked me a question that would change my life. He asked me what I was going to do with my skills. Little did he know that his simple question would inspire me to enroll in culinary school. I took the initiative to apply to The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College, and when I was accepted into the program, I was ecstatic.
Since I joined the program last fall, I’ve learned so much. The program has been very helpful in teaching me to slow down and use proper techniques.
I decided to start using my new skills to help others. As a 40-year-old single mother of three wonderful children, I’m finally at a point where I don’t care about myself. I care about other people, and I want to do something to make a difference.
Last month, I donated an in-home fine dining experience for the Flathead Food Bank Soup and Supper Auction Benefit. To help me, I recruited a couple of my fellow classmates to join me in preparing and serving the meal.
I also entered a recipe contest through the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Kalispell. My recipe, “Red Velvet Cake with a Twist,” was one of, if not the only, gluten free recipe out of hundreds of recipes submitted and was inspired by the original Waldorf-Astoria red velvet cake recipe which I learned in school. I took the original recipe, made a few tweaks, including removing all gluten from the recipe, and created a dessert I think tastes better than the original.
My recipe was a success, and I was invited to participate in the Samaritan House bake-off along with all of the other contest finalists. I ended up scoring first place in the dessert category, and my recipe will be featured in the Samaritan House Community Cookbook set to be published next month. Copies of the book will be sold as a fundraiser for the Samaritan House while raising awareness of homelessness and providing people with good, healthy recipes.
For the recent Samaritan House annual Cowboy Up Auction, which raises funds for the organization, I donated one of my finished cakes for the event. I was overjoyed to learn my cake auctioned for $400!
Utilizing my skills to help those less fortunate in our community is extremely gratifying. I’m happy I’ve finally found my way to help others. The value of helping others over oneself is something I am trying to instill in my children, especially my 6-year old who I take with me everywhere I cook. These experiences are helping me teach her not to be selfish. I am able to show her that life is not about helping yourself but about helping others.
In looking into the future, I hope to one day start a Montana-based culinary training program for the homeless similar to the program in Knoxville as another way to help the homeless in our state while utilizing my culinary skills.
What better thing in life than helping other people? That’s what we’re here for.
If you would like my “Red Velvet Cake with a Twist” recipe, please support the Samaritan House by purchasing their community cookbook. Please call 257-5801 or visit homelessintheflathead.blogspot.com for more information.
The Culinary Institute of Montana at FVCC is currently accepting applications for the fall 2012 program. For more information, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com
or call Instructor Hillary Ginepra at 756-3862.
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