Alameda Family Services has partnered with local chefs to present “Chef’s Kitchen,” a set of virtual, live and interactive cooking classes. Seasonally themed “Italian Harvest,” “Oktoberfest” and “Thanksgiving Surprise,” each takes participants into a chef’s kitchen, wherein he’ll offer recipes, secrets and tips while raising funds for Alameda Family Services to put toward its community network of medical, mental health and child development services.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alameda Family Services has seen requests for its services, support and resources go up by about 35% and has had to adjust its normal fundraising methods to the new normal. Normally, the Holiday Home Tour would be its major annual fundraiser, but since that look unlikely this year a committee came up with the “Chef’s Kitchen” events in its place, not only to raise needed funds but to bring the community together and support local restaurants.
“This gives the restaurants an opportunity to get some advertising and raise awareness about what’s going on with them while they can give back to Alameda Food Services. The icing on the cake is that it creates an opportunity for those watching to feel connected because so much of what’s happening right now is about being isolated,” said AFS Executive Director Katherine Schwartz. “We thought this was a fantastic way to promote this very core value of the agency, which is well-being. It’s healthy, you get an opportunity to get to know some of these local celebrity chefs and get an inside view into how they operate their own kitchen. So it just felt like a win-win for everyone.”
The series of classes kicked off Aug. 10 with Donna Meadows from Little House Cafe teaching her class, “Summer Brunch,” in which the class prepared classic brunch dishes including a Bloody Mary mocktail with an alcohol option, eggs Benedict with sourdough English muffins and soufflé pancakes. It also featured tips on mastering hollandaise sauce. The remaining classes will be taught from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second Mondays of September, October and November.
Next up, Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails owner-chef Giuseppe Naccarelli offers “Italian Harvest” Sept. 14, when he’ll create a menu including a mocktail with an alcohol option and instruct on how to prepare one of his classic Italian dishes.
“Oktoberfest” brings the camera into Speisekammer Restaurant owner-chef Peter Kahl’s kitchen on Oct. 12 to learn to prepare a Kuhl Cucumber Elderflower mocktail with a gin option along with German classics, such as potato pancakes with sour cream appetizer and weisskohl roulade (stuffed cabbage) with mashed potatoes.
On Nov. 9, Pappo owner-chef John Thiel will present “Thanksgiving Surprise” and make some of his favorites, including a sparkling cranberry-ginger-lime mocktail with an alcohol option, butternut squash apple soup and roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta while offering tips on preparing a turkey and more.
While each remaining chef has his own style, each has been encouraged to share stories about his experiences as a chef and becoming a chef. The idea is for participants to feel like they’re in the kitchen with the chef, while he teaches them, but all in a very casual and relaxed atmosphere.
Each registered class participant gets a recipe for the dishes and drink the chef prepares as well as a small surprise gift hand-delivered and left at his or her door, a different gift for each class. Participants also receive digital copies of the class video so they can go back and watch it again.
Any funds raised by “Chef’s Kitchen” will be used for two main programs, the school-based services program and the family resource center. Alameda Family Services provides counseling in 12 Alameda schools, and the need for these services has increased; additional funding would allow extra mental health services to the students, which are provided via telehealth (remotely online) during the pandemic.
“We’ve been creative and looked for ways to continue to connect with the kids and families; we can do individuals, groups and families through telehealth,” Schwartz said. “Since everyone is at home, we’ve been able to engage parents and really make significant progress with the issues kids are struggling with, issues like family relationships and resolving conflict in a healthy way.”
In the family resource center, the organization has been running a “warm line,” receiving hundreds of calls on a regular basis from people asking for information about where to get food, how to sign up for food stamps, affordable housing, how to get tested and how to sign up for unemployment. One of the main things people need is food because all the local food service organizations are swamped. Fortunately AFS has been able to distribute gift cards for grocery stores and will use any additional funding to buy more of these cards.
According to Alameda Family Services, the organization for 50 years has been committed to the well-being of the community as a whole, for the family and the individual, and Schwartz stresses that they’re making decisions from that perspective. Knowing the added stress that people are undergoing just strengthens the organization’s goal of coming up with creative ways to lend this support, she said. “Chef’s Kitchen” is one of these ways and deep appreciation goes out to all involved with the event, Schwartz added.
“I want people to know that Alameda Family Services is here, and we want to do everything we can to be a support. It’s important to know how much we appreciate the time these chefs are taking to help us out. We know how difficult it is for restaurants right now and that they are struggling,” she said. “We recognize what a gift their willingness to take time out of their busy schedule to be a part of these ‘Chef’s Kitchen’ events is, and we are really touched. We’re also really appreciative of every single person who has bought a ticket because it takes everybody pulling together. If you’re unable to participate in the fundraiser, maybe you can consider a donation to help support us during this health crisis.”
Marta Yamamoto is a freelance writer, longtime Bay Area resident and outdoor enthusiast. Contact her at [email protected].
“Chef’s Kitchen” fundraiser: Tickets are $100 per class, 100% tax-deductible and available for purchase online at bayareane.ws/3jycFYb.
Alameda Family Services: alamedafs.org
Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails: trabocco.com
Speisekammer Restaurant: speisekammer.com
Little House Cafe: littlehousecafe.com/wordpress