Cafe Reconcile is a unique non-profit organization in part because of the work that they do but also because of how long they have been doing it. Reconcile’s kitchen serves affordable meals cooked by at-risk youth with a curiosity about the culinary arts. This beacon of good food and mentorship has successfully operated on the same corner of Orthea Castle Haley for twenty years – an eon for any restaurant, let alone a non-profit organization.
To thank their sponsors for their two-decades of support, Cafe Reconcile solicited our help. CulinaryCorps was asked to design and execute a three-course menu (with five passed appetizers) for one hundred of their most important sponsors and supporters. We decided to go classically French, thus renaming the venue for the evening, Le Bistrot Reconciler.
With the help of the kitchen staff (Chef Jo, Chef Andrew and Chef Curtis), most of the basics were in place before we arrived (plates, food orders, and student manpower). The day of the event, we arrived at 7am to begin our prep. Setting up a mobile kitchen in the upstairs storage area, our team broke into smaller groups and spread both upstairs and down to execute their individual responsibilities on the menu. By 8am, we were gathered around the dining room, hand-in-hand with the students of Reconcile, reciting their morning blessing. A moment of calm before the maelstrom.
Typically, a meal for one hundred necessitates prep the night before. So with only 10-hours until the first appetizers were passed, we worked fast and furiously. Luckily, we had the enthusiasm, hard-work and creativity of the Reconcile students to help us accomplish this mission impossible.
At 6pm, students dressed in their waitstaff finest were passing trays of cherry tomatoes stuffed with herbed goat cheese and mini-croque salmons, topped with creme fraiche and caviar. We rounded out the nibbles with tiny beef tartines with spinach and anchovy butter, gruyere gougeres and fried oysters and catfish with remoulade sauce. Wined flowed, conversation turned to laughter and everyone’s appetites were piqued for the classic Vichysoisse that was up as the first course.
The courses sailed by and the whole day became a happy experiment in group mentorship. When the final diner left, there were hugs exchanged and e-mail addresses swapped.
We packed up what we could for the students to bring home to loved ones…roasted pork loin with swiss chard and apple cider sauce, sweet potato gratin with hazelnuts, glazed summer squash and of course, lots of chocolate-banana bread pudding. We know that at the end of this evening, our hearts were as full as their bellies were about to be.
Thank you Cafe Reconcile students for reminding us why we went into this career in the first place. We wish you all the luck in the world as you find your way in the kitchen.