Each year, communities around the world celebrate #GivingTuesday—global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. In this spirit, we wanted to highlight just a few of the many ICC alumni using their culinary training to give back to their communities, working with their organizations to create change everyday.
Greg Silverman graduated from ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program in 2003, but that wasn’t the beginning of his culinary journey. Prior to enrolling in culinary school, Greg joined the Peace Corps for 2 years in Mali and worked with women’s groups focused on food production. He went on to open multiple successful restaurants in Ithaca, New York. Needing a change, he sold his restaurants and moved to London. Across the pond, he was the Director of Slow Food Fast, INC and consulted with organizations focused on food social enterprises. After London, he worked in D.C. and New York helping to develop and grow campaigns like No Kid Hungry and Wellness in the Schools. Now, he’s the Executive Director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger—a food pantry that works to bring dignity back to those in need.
Christine Carroll went to college to become a scientist, but shortly after traded in her lab coat for a chef’s coat. After working in England for a number of years as a sous chef, she came to ICC to develop her culinary skills. Before graduating from ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program in 2007, Christine worked for Full Plate Media, as well as in the test kitchen for Saveur Magazine. Then, she worked as the Director for the Whole Foods Market Culinary Center in lower Manhattan, as well as co-authored Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants. In between all of this, she founded CulinaryCorps, the nation’s first volunteer service organization for culinary professionals.
Below, check out how these graduates are working with their organizations to bring about change in communities around the world!
West Side Campaign Against Hunger
In 1993, West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH) opened as the first customer-choice, supermarket style for food pantries. This model allows customers to select their own groceries from shelves, rather than receiving pre-packaged supplies. By empowering customers to choose the food that they want for themselves and their families, they are also helping to reduce food waste across the board.
But WSCAH is more than just an emergency food pantry—they also offer culinary training and have a social service counseling center. Their Culinary Pathways program, taught by fellow ICC alumna Elizabeth Richards, offers a free, bilingual 12-week culinary training program to learn knife skills, sanitation, nutrition, menu-planning, and culinary math. When we visited Greg and WSCAH, the building was buzzing as everyone was preparing for one of the largest events of the year, their Harvest Dinner, to raise money for the organization. The Culinary Pathways students, along with chef instructor Elizabeth, were cooking the meal as a part of their final project for the program. Some 200 guests would fill the building that evening to raise more than $250,000.
After completing their program, WSCAH works with companies like Great Performances Catering and Union Square Hospitality Group to get jobs for their students. To keep all of this running, WSCAH has 24 full-time staff members, as well as 1,800 volunteers, who all run under the direction of Greg. The majority of the 24,000 volunteer hours every year are performed by incredible community volunteers, many of them customers of WSCAH themselves who want to give back.
Dignity, community and choice. These are the principles that WSCAH operates on. Directly after the Harvest Dinner, WSCAH switched gears to raise $125,000 for their Thousand Turkey Challenge. Through this initiative, they’ll provide Thanksgiving holiday meals for New Yorkers in need. No matter what, they’ll give out turkeys to everyone who needs one to make sure that they’ll have a holiday meal for their family.
Culinary students and graduates alike can help WSCAH in so many ways—by volunteering, engaging as a restaurant or chef to hire their trainees, and even organizing donation coalitions for their organization. To find out more about how you can help, click here.
Christine Carroll is the Founder and Executive Director of CulinaryCorps. In 2006, while still in culinary school at ICC, she was chosen to participate in the Share Our Strength conference in New Orleans that brought together chefs and culinary students from all across the nation for a long weekend. In addition to lectures, classes, and food events, half a day was devoted to a community service project, and Chefs were tasked with painting a school flooded by Hurricane Katrina.
About mid-way through the day, Christine glanced around at the professional chefs painting and knew that their talents were better suited to the kitchen. When she returned home from the trip, she tried to find an organization that organizes short-term volunteer trips for culinary professionals, but came up empty. That’s when she decided to start one of her own! Fundamentally, CulinaryCorps began because she believes that good food has the potential to do good.
CulinaryCorps is a 100% volunteer, woman-led, all-inclusive, grassroots organization that promotes their mission and message to the world through their networks. Before CulinaryCorps, chefs were often asked to pitch in by fundraising for a cause or volunteering at different events where needed. Now, there are so many ways that chefs can share their culinary strengths with their communities. During each service trip, 10-12 chefs join CulinaryCorps and embark on a week-long service trip to the chosen community to implement project initiatives that are custom designed for each of their project partners. Whether its launching an after-school cooking curriculum Cooking at the Club for The Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast, or working behind the stoves at Bill’s Kitchen, an organization that serves daily hot meals to people living with HIV/AIDS in San Juan, Puerto Rico, CulinaryCorps individually impacts each community that they visit.
To learn more about CulinaryCorps and to see how you can get involved, visit their website here. If you have an idea for a new trip to a community in need, please email CulinaryCorps at email@example.com.