13 September 2010

volunteering at FareStart

Our cycling team has been riding in the name of FareStart ever since it was founded two years ago. As a result, and for the first time that I can recall, I have been really excited about working with a charity. When the opportunity arose to volunteer in the kitchen I jumped at it. It was a blast.


FareStart is in downtown Seattle and they have a restaurant, kitchen and offices all at one location.

I walked down from our house and arrived at the south door of FareStart at around 10:15. All you do is buzz the intercom and a chef opens the door and lets you in. You go down these very inauspicious looking stairs to an underground kitchen.

I think I spent about 10 seconds doing nothing and then I had washed my hands, put on an apron, some gloves, a hat and was busy slicing bread.
My job was to fill up a giant tub, so I did. I actually got a blister in the process... Man I am soft.

I love institutional kitchens. There is so much space and equipment and it's all so industrial and big and solid. As I was working I kept pausing to pull my glove off, fish my camera out of my pocket and snap a picture. People kept asking me what I was taking all the pictures for... :)

All around me people were busy preparing food and trying to be as efficient as possible. Sandwiches turned into an assembly line.
Potatoes were cut.
As were oranges.
I got to make the pizza sauce.

Chef Rick and Chef Buck were guiding us throughout the day. Turns out Buck is a graduate of the program and just moved back to Seattle to try and start a life here with his girlfriend. We hit it off (he'd probably hit it off with most anyone to tell you the truth) and chatted throughout the day.

The kitchen was full of BIG stuff. Big bins of spices and dry goods, big utensils like the whisk I'm holding but my favorite big thing was this huge steamer/fryer that we used to sauté onions.

The 'bin' is about 4x4 feet and about 18" deep. Buck poured in some oil, we dumped in all the onions we had cut and when you are done the entire rig pivots on an axis so you can dump/scoop out the contents. This also facilitates cleaning as you can pour in water, scrub the thing and then tip out the water. Into a floor drain of course. Everyone should have a floor drain in their kitchen in my opinion.

Not only did we get to prepare food for shelters, we got to eat our own cooking.
That's right, Martin made the pasta broccoli cheese thingy.

What do you do when you are done cooking? You get to clean up! Big kitchens are big clean up projects... We had to wash all the counters with soapy water AND wipe them with disinfectant. Salmonella be gone! Then we had to break down all the cardboard and tin cans for recycling, sweep and mop the floors and take out the garbage, compost and recycling.

Turns out quite a bit (all?) of the ingredients for the food we made is donated. The bread I was slicing was mostly from the Essential Baking Company. How cool is that. In addition they rely on volunteer help every weekend to get the food prepared. To see a graduate of the program working here was amazing; very rewarding to be a part of this.

Here are all the pictures and video.

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