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Liberty’s Kitchen presents ‘Come Grow With Us’ featuring a chef showdown to benefit ‘Youth Development Program’

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Next door to the Whole Foods on Broad is a restaurant called Liberty’s Kitchen that we tend hit up about once or twice a month for breakfast and lunch (our favorites are the Mardi Gras Breakfast Sandwich and House-made Black Bean Burger for lunch). From the outside, it’s your typical restaurant, but what many don’t realize is what an incredible home Liberty’s Kitchen is to many of our New Orleans youth.
Not only is Liberty’s Kitchen serving up great food, they are also providing important life skills for our young New Orleanians, particularly those at-risk for getting lost in the violence, poverty, and despair of the city. At Liberty’s Kitchen, while you’re eating your delicious meal, you’re also helping our most vulnerable youth gain the necessary skills to lead successful and independent lives.
Liberty’s Kitchen works with vulnerable New Orleans youth from 16-24 years old “to help them create and achieve their vision of success. This population of New Orleanians is often referred to as ‘disconnected’ – out of school and out of work, and facing societal challenges that make it difficult for them to thrive. Liberty’s Kitchen strives to help these young people realize their full potential through a combination of workforce training, life skills, and leadership development programming.”  
With its Youth Development Program, Liberty’s Kitchen “combines hands-on food service training with classroom instruction, individual case management, job placement services, and follow-up support. In addition, the program addresses the many issues that create barriers to self-sufficiency with wrap-around support including health care, mental health, housing, GED completion, parenting issues, and financial literacy. All aspects of the innovative Youth Development Program are developing a participant’s ability to become independent and self-sufficient – and of course, successfully employed. Students graduate from Liberty’s Kitchen with the life and employability skills necessary to succeed in work.”
David Emond, Executive Director of Liberty’s Kitchen, is committed to achieving the organization’s mission. “Our young people have gotten the short end of the stick, to put it simply,” he said. “Growing up as victims of generational poverty, they inherit challenges that lock them in a cycle of negativity and despair. Our mission is to help them look in the mirror and see something that has value, and then to recognize and develop their power. Once they do that, we see time and time again how they possess the potential to thrive.”

On September 30, Liberty’s Kitchen will hold its annual fundraiser, Come Grow With Us, at the Ace Hotel (600 Carondelet St.) from 7:00pm-10:00pm with proceeds benefiting the Youth Development Program. Live music from Black Channel and Chapter:Soul, open bar, unlimited food, and a ‘Chef Showdown’ featuring “renowned New Orleans chefs, including chefs from Cane & Table, Emeril’s, Roux Bistro at Sheraton New Orleans, and more, working alongside Liberty's Kitchen trainees will make this evening one you won’t forget!” 
This year’s Come Grow With Us will honor Chef Alon Shaya, Executive Chef and Partner of Domenica, Pizza Domenica, and Shaya, with the 2016 Youth Advocate Award. “Alon is such a genuinely generous person,” smiled David. “His culinary success is great, but we are honoring him because of the difference he has made in young people’s lives. He takes chances on people, sets a positive example for them, lets them fall down a couple times, and helps them get back up. He believes deeply that he has a responsibility to be a mentor in the same way that someone believed it was their responsibility to mentor him.”
In addition to Chef Alon Shaya, two graduates of the Youth Development Program, Andryan Lagarde and Kiall Wilson, will also be honored. “Andryan and Kiall are alike in many ways,” David explained. “Each of them came to us facing significant challenges, but they were open to seeing the goodness inside themselves, and they recognized how far they could go with a little coaching and support. Each of them has maintained steady employment with their respective employer for well over a year, and both are beginning to plan the next steps in their career. I believe that their stories are New Orleans’ stories. We never let adversity get us down, but we have a deep recognition that it takes a village. Liberty’s Kitchen is a big part of these young people’s village.”
Graduate and honoree Andryan LaGarde finished from Liberty’s Kitchen in February 2015 and has been working as a cashier at the Whole Foods on Broad, where she was recently promoted to full-time cashier and has been an active member of the Youth Leadership Council (YLC), which plans alumni workshops and advocates in the community.
For Andryan, Liberty’s Kitchen provided her with purpose in her life. “After high school, I attened Delgado Community College for a short time, but then I quit and couldn’t really find a job,” she said. “I didn’t have anyone to guide me and provide me with support. So I reached out to a friend who was connected to Liberty’s Kitchen. At first, I was unsure about it, but then I started to really like the program and thought that I could turn this into something. And so I became one of the people in my class who really took it seriously.”
She continued, “I started the program because I felt like I wanted something better for myself. I wanted a better life and I figured this would be a good starting place. The reward was working here, getting paid, gaining new experiences, and graduating. My challenge was in struggling with authority, but I learned to take feedback and to listen and learn and that is something I really appreciate from Liberty’s Kitchen. The program is important to the community because it’s helping kids who are lost and don’t have anyone to help them get back on track school-wise and job-wise. It’s amazing to be honored at the event. It feels like somebody cares; I feel appreciated. It really does feel awesome.”
Graduate and honoree Kiall Wilson finished Liberty’s Kitchen in April 2015 and was hired by his externship site, the Maison Dupuy Hotel, following graduation. Like Andryan, he has also been active in the Youth Leadership Council.
“Before Liberty’s Kitchen, I was basically living paycheck to paycheck just trying to make it through,” said Kiall. “I liked cooking when I was younger and I was interested in both traditional and pastry cooking, but I never really went into it. I wanted to complete the program because I wanted to get basic knowledge of working in a kitchen and see what cooking was all about. Some of my favorite parts of the program were the field trips, meeting different executive chefs and culinary geniuses, and actually completing the program and receiving that beautiful knife set. My main challenge was focusing on myself and learning to be professional at all times. I actually almost got kicked out until Mr. Dennis talked to me and told me to get my head in the game!”
He added, “This program is important because that it helps young people get a second chance at life. It helps them build better character for themselves and be role models for other people that might be in the same situation. It’s an honor to be recognized along with Andryan because I know it’s always about teamwork. It’s also an honor to be recognized with Chef Shaya who I have now had three encounters with and have always gained some type of knowledge from. Anybody that wants to pursue happiness or pursue a dream, never turn your back on opportunities when they are given. Just strive to accomplish them and never lose that willpower to get them.”
David Emond concluded, “Our youth are our future, and the investment of time, talent, and treasure we make in them today will reap huge dividends not only in their lives, but for us all.”

We hope you come grow with Liberty’s Kitchen!

WHAT: Liberty’s Kitchen’s Come Grow With Us

WHEN: Friday, September 30 (7:00pm-10:00pm)
WHERE: Ace Hotel (600 Carondelet St.)

Last modified on Monday, 03 October 2016
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