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Milk Street Faces

Milk Street Faces

The stories of the people who feed us
  • Caitlin Cullen, The Tandem, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    “We try to make (the meals) approachable because half the people we’re serving are kids,”... read more
    “We try to make (the meals) approachable because half the people we’re serving are kids,” says Caitlin Cullen, who closed her Milwaukee restaurant, The Tandem, to focus on a partnership with World Central Kitchen to provide between 350 to 450 free meals a day. “We try to jazz up the standards and always try to sneak in some kale or something healthy. I don’t know, we’re just cooking our (butts) off.” Cullen is leading a group of more than 20 restaurants to provide the meals, paying other restaurants $10 a plate so they can keep their lights on, as well. “A lot of folks coming are not on traditional food assistance. It’s a lot of service industry people, people working at the mall and movie theaters who have bills that when the world is working, normally, they can provide for themselves. But unemployment’s backed up, food assistance is backed up, so we’re trying to take that one concern off your plate, what you’re going to eat, for the day.” — Caitlin Cullen, chef-owner of The Tandem, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as told to Albert Stumm (Photo by Adrianna Grace). ... less
  • Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, Black Church Food Security Network, Baltimore, Maryland

    “When a big box grocery store up and leaves a Black community, oftentimes the neighborhood... read more
    “When a big box grocery store up and leaves a Black community, oftentimes the neighborhood doesn't have any recourse. They don’t have a voice,” says the Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, speaking about the Black Church Food Security Network. The group helps churches grow vegetable gardens on their land and connects communities directly with Black farmers through church-based farmers markets and an online directory of Black farmers. “We recognize that food charity alone was never going to get to the underlying situation that had Black communities hungry in the first place. ... We are challenging the social arrangement that keeps, in our case, the Black community at the bottom of the totem pole with respect to having the power to determine and decide what they want in their own neighborhood. And I’m so glad that the hundreds and thousands of people around the country are marching in the streets. Because what they’re marching about, in part, is power dynamics. Just like we created the Black Church Food Security Network during a time of social unrest five years ago,” he says, referring to the Baltimore uprising in response to the death of Freddie Gray, “something else is being born right now that will make a long-lasting difference.” — The Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, Black Church Food Security Network, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Shannon Winston) ... less
  • Fernando Arroyo, Acámbaro SIN Hambre, Acámbaro, Guanajuato, Mexico

    “Immigrants need food. Some don’t have papers and to the government, the person is invisible,”... read more
    “Immigrants need food. Some don’t have papers and to the government, the person is invisible,” says Fernando Arroyo, a Mexican chef currently working for chef José Andrés's World Central Kitchen at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. “I lived in New York for five years, working as a chef at Fonda with Roberto Santibañez. I moved to Washington D.C. in February to work at Santibañez’s restaurant, Mi Vida, and three weeks later the restaurant closed.” Concerned about so many of his undocumented colleagues, he started volunteering for Andres, and was offered a job after a week. “We make thousands of meals every day to help all these invisible people,” he says. “I also opened a community kitchen in Acámbaro, Guanajuato, where I am from. ... I send my brother part of my paycheck every week and he cooks every day for people in my community. My friends give him fruit, chicken, anything. I make 6,400 meals every week with my friends and family. Everything is bad right now. But I try. I try because I am human.” Fernando Arroyo, World Central Kitchen and #ACAMBAROSINHAMBRE, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Greg Kopit) ... less
  • Anthony Caldwell, 50Kitchen, Dorchester, Massachusetts

    “I grew up in public housing. Didn’t have much. I’ve seen a lot. I went... read more
    “I grew up in public housing. Didn’t have much. I’ve seen a lot. I went to prison multiple times. The last trip is where I got introduced to cooking,” says Anthony Caldwell, chef-owner of Dorchester fusion restaurant 50Kitchen. “The culinary educator, who was also a correctional officer, that man took chopped parsley and sprinkled it over a plate and it blew me away.” After working in various kitchens around Boston and running his own catering business, Caldwell opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in February this year. “Three weeks later, we were forced to close because of Covid. But I can tell you that I’m not concerned. I trust God. He didn’t bring me this far to leave me...I’m currently working with CommonWealth Kitchen, providing 400-500 meals per week through this entity called Common Table.” When schools reopen, he’ll launch a program called A Day in the Life for students at nearby Helen Y. Davis Academy. “They’ll spend the day with me, I’ll teach them the basics of cooking... And at the end of the end of the school year, I’ll bring them mystery boxes and they’ll have to show me what they learned.” Anthony Caldwell, 50 Kitchen, Dorchester, Massachusetts, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Annette Grant). ... less
  • Makini Howell, Plum Vegan Restaurants, Seattle, Washington

    “One of the good things about working in this industry is you’re always forced to... read more
    “One of the good things about working in this industry is you’re always forced to think outside the box and to think quickly. When there’s rapid fire tickets and it’s really busy, that’s a certain type of person. You learn to move quickly, think quickly and adjust quickly. So all of that came into use when I realized we had to adjust super fast in order to stay alive,” says Makini Howell, chef and owner of Makini Howell Plum Vegan Restaurants in Seattle. So when she had to close her flagship restaurant, Plum Bistro, for in-person dining, she took the opportunity to give it a long-planned “facelift” and employed some of her cooks to help. “I didn't want to lose the people that I had because it had literally taken me the past decade to amass them and it’s a really strong team. So we switched gears. Some of the cooks were also construction workers, so instead of having to let them go, I was able to keep them on as staff members and they did the construction work in the restaurant.” — Makini Howell, Plum Vegan Restaurants, Seattle, Washington, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photos: Elizabeth Rudge; courtesy of Makini Howell) ... less
  • Cindy Mojica, Silver Fork, Chicago, Illinois

    “Food is one of those things that transcends everything, it’s the one thing we have... read more
    “Food is one of those things that transcends everything, it’s the one thing we have in common, and this gives people a safe space to have them walk away with something they can use in the real world and not just in our happy queer bubble,” says Cindy Mojica, a cooking instructor at Silver Fork, a need-based culinary training program at Chicago’s LGBTQ Center on Halsted. Mojica naturally teaches things like knife skills and how to break down a chicken, but also helps students build less tangible skills. “From day one, even before we get in the kitchen, we talk about self-awareness and accountability, about saying it’s OK that you don’t know something and ask a question. It’s better to know that about yourself. And also how to work as a team, how to handle stress and conflict.” Those latter skills come in handy maybe a little too often for graduates. “The restaurant world has a reputation for toxic masculinity with lots of gay jokes, and as woman of color, I’ve heard it all. When we can create this space to work on those soft skills, they learn how to advocate for themselves and how to work that into professional setting to say ‘Hey, I’m not ok with those jokes.’” — Cindy Mojica, Silver Fork at Center on Halsted, Chicago, Illinois, as told to Albert Stumm (Photo by Steven Cory Solomon) ... less
  • Gregory Gourdet, Departure, Portland, Oregon

    “I feel that in five years, 10 years, 30 years, hopefully whatever is going on... read more
    “I feel that in five years, 10 years, 30 years, hopefully whatever is going on now teaches us a lot about humanity and society, and the generation after us can grow up in a better place because we went through this now,” says Gregory Gourdet, director of culinary operations at Portland, Oregon, restaurant Departure. “Mentally I’m good. I don’t want to give up. But emotionally, I’m broken. Ever since George Floyd was murdered, I’ve cried every single day.” In January, Gourdet stepped back to focus on his first restaurant and upcoming cookbook, “Everyone’s Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health." "The book has been an amazing distraction. ... This is a moment in history and it’s going to take some time. This has sparked a lot of conversation and a reckoning in the white community. What happens with police brutality, that’s the other half of the equation." — Gregory Gourdet, Departure, Portland, Oregon, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Eva Kosmas Flores) ... less
  • Colleen Moriarty, Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Minneapolis

    “I’m feeling how hard it is to talk about this. It’s really overwhelming when I... read more
    “I’m feeling how hard it is to talk about this. It’s really overwhelming when I start to think and not just react,” says Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota. “The enormous tragedy of George Floyd being murdered before our eyes threw the community into chaos. But from chaos rolls the value of the community. We’ve been talking with local agencies and there’s been food distribution via an informal network. Like thousands of people in Minneapolis, I went to Lake Street and cleaned up. I brought a broom and a dustpan and I tried not to look up too much because it was so heartbreaking. For miles and miles, the buildings are burned out. The glass is smattered. There’s graffiti everywhere. I met my old boss, the former mayor of Minneapolis, at the murder sight, and we just stood together and cried. But I think the vibrancy of the city and the diverse corridor of Lake Street will be honored in the rebuilding. We are a strong, diverse community and we need to honor and cherish that. We need to rise out of this culture of hate that’s established itself. We’re better than that. The whole world is better than that.” Colleen Moriarty, Hunger Solutions Minnesota, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo Credit: Hunger Solutions Minnesota) Milk Street Faces shares the stories of the people who feed us. Know a story we should share? Message @jm_hirsch #milkstreetfaces ... less
  • Tanya Holland, Brown Sugar Kitchen, Oakland, California

    “Often it feels like with some colleagues, ‘So you only think about us around Kwanzaa... read more
    “Often it feels like with some colleagues, ‘So you only think about us around Kwanzaa and February and Juneteenth,’ and it gets a little old. Like, oh, here it comes again,” says chef Tanya Holland, owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, which combines soul food classics with a California focus on local, quality ingredients. “I’m happy that the dialog is open and that the heightened awareness of the absence of black representation is there. So it’s good. I just hope that we continue.” She expects her restaurant will be busier today thanks to customers making the effort to support black businesses, but acknowledges she didn’t always appreciate the significance of the holiday. “Juneteenth has not always been on my radar because I grew up in an era when the history of African Americans was not taught in a constructive way. We just were looking forward and not looking back,” says the French-trained chef who also speaks Russian. “Ironically, five years ago I was brought to Kazakhstan to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth with the State Department as a culinary diplomat. That made me think about it, that I was born 100 years after emancipation of the slaves. A hundred years is not that long ago. My great-grandfather lived to be 100. So, if you think about in that context, it’s a very meaningful, very important date.” — Tanya Holland, Brown Sugar Kitchen, Oakland, California, as told to Albert Stumm (Photo by Smeeta Mahanti) ... less
  • Sandy Jean,Hali'imaile General Store, Maui​, Hawaii

    “I can’t wait to hug people again. Remember hugs and kisses?! And, 'Here, taste this... read more
    “I can’t wait to hug people again. Remember hugs and kisses?! And, 'Here, taste this! I’m shoving food in your mouth?!' That’s what human beings are all about,” says Sandy Jean, a bartender and server for 13 years at Hali'imaile General Store in Maui, Hawaii. “I choose to believe that when we get to reopen, what the new normal might be is going to be even better than before—more planet conscious and kinder toward humanity, and therefore everyone will be more grateful.” The restaurant tried switching to takeout, but it didn't work. “We quickly realized this quality of food isn’t meant to be eaten to-go. It’s designed to be enjoyed within moments of coming off the line, when it's cold or hot or stacked or whatever. It’s like we had one arm tied behind our back.” So now, since the restaurant is only selling meal kits and pantry items on their online store, she waits. “I miss everybody, all our regulars. We’re like a Maui version of Cheers.” — Sandy Jean, Hali'imaile General Store, Maui, Hawaii, as told to Albert Stumm. ... less
  • Adrian Miller, Soul Food Historian

    If we get people to sit down, break bread and talk, get to know each... read more
    If we get people to sit down, break bread and talk, get to know each other, we can build the relationships to tackle the really tough things,” says Adrian Miller, the James Beard Award-winning food historian and author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine.” “Food is a powerful tool for reconciliation because a lot of people get their first exposure to another culture through food. There’s no substitute for interaction, but it could open a door that people might go through.” A former lawyer who worked in the Clinton White House, Miller says the distinction between what is and isn’t soul food is less stark than it used to be. “Soul food tends to be spicier or more seasoned … but for much of the culture, spicy food used to be considered vulgar. People saw black cooks had a heavier hand with red pepper, and in an era of balancing that against the French aesthetic it was not considered high class at all. The legacy of how French cuisine dominated the way people thought was the right way to cook, anything that didn’t hew to that was considered less sophisticated or improper. Now those barriers are coming down.” — Adrian Miller, soul food historian and author of “Soul Food” and “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet,” as told to Albert Stumm (Photo by Bernard Grant). ... less
  • Vel Scott, Vel's Purple Oasis Garden, Cleveland, Ohio

    Food injustice is racial injustice,” says Vel Scott, founder of the Purple Oasis, a two-acre... read more
    Food injustice is racial injustice,” says Vel Scott, founder of the Purple Oasis, a two-acre community garden in the heart of Cleveland that includes 50 fruit trees. “I call it food injustice because of things that are allowed to penetrate the neighborhood, fast food and corner shops who sell everything that we don’t need… There is the killing of people with bullets and there’s killing generations of people with the food that infiltrates our community.” She was spurred to learn healthier ways of cooking years ago during a six-week trip to West Africa after her husband had a health scare. She then took what she learned—building flavor with spices, herbs and different cooking techniques, rather than relying on meat and lots of fat—and began offering vegetable-based cooking classes in the garden and at community centers around the city. “I keep sharing the benefits of healthy body, healthy mind. We can’t do anything if we don’t take care of ourselves. You’re not going to be able to fight and march and make change unless you have a healthy outlook.” — Vel Scott, Purple Oasis Community Garden, Cleveland, Ohio, as told to Albert Stumm (Photo by Purple Oasis). ... less
  • Oji Abbott, Oohh’s and Aaahh’s, Washington, D.C.

    “Soul food is really intrinsic to America. It’s also as American as apple pie. Since... read more
    “Soul food is really intrinsic to America. It’s also as American as apple pie. Since the beginning when they had slaves working in people’s kitchens, what do you think they were cooking? They were cooking soul food,” says Oji Abbott, chef-owner of Oohh’s and Aaahh’s in Washington, D.C. He combined formal culinary training with lessons from his grandmother and great-grandmother to open in 2003, landing on a name that represented a universal feeling. “When you like something, you take that first bite and say, ‘Oooh, that’s good.’ Then you take that last bite and you’re fully satisfied, you let out that exasperation, ‘Ahhhh!’ And I believe every person on the planet does that, not separated by language or culture or lines of demarcation. It’s something everybody does.” Abbott has remained positive despite these troubling months, and he recently witnessed the power of how food can bring people together. One day after a protest, a police officer and a young protester struck up a conversation while waiting on their orders. “They came to an agreement that if everybody is treating everyone fair, then it’s all good. ... The common ground there was, if there was more time for discussion, and obviously waiting on some food is a good time, then when they see each other on the street, they’re going to have a different understanding for one another.” — Oji Abbot, Oohh’s and Aahh’s, Washington, D.C., as told to Albert Stumm. ... less
  • Geo Lambert, M&M BBQ, Dorchester, Massachusetts

    “People don’t realize how far their voice can go and how their following can really... read more
    “People don’t realize how far their voice can go and how their following can really affect different people,” says Geo Lambert, who runs M&M BBQ in Dorchester, Massachusetts. “I’m a Dorchester native born and raised, so I was excited to see breweries and distilleries flourish in the neighborhood. I’m also a big craft beer drinker,” he says. Lambert’s grandparents founded M&M Ribs, originally a food truck, in 1982, and Lambert took over 15 years ago. In January, he partnered with Dorchester Brewing Company, where M&M now has its first permanent home. In response to the death of George Floyd, the partners are teaming up to donate to the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. “They help a lot of people affected by homicides, especially in the inner city, so it plays real close to me. I’ve lost friends and family to homicide, so I know where it can help. I thought it was pretty cool that Dorchester wanted to be a part of that as well,” Lambert says. “It’s uncomfortable definitely, but the more we talk about it and deal with it front on, we can actually move forward.” Geo Lambert, M&M BBQ, Dorchester, Massachusetts, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Eric Clark) ... less
  • Abdirahman Kahin, Afro Deli, Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota

    “When suddenly the government shut down restaurants, it took me a few moments to rethink... read more
    “When suddenly the government shut down restaurants, it took me a few moments to rethink what we will do, because I had about 40-some employees that didn’t know where to go,” says Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli, a pan-African restaurant that has four locations and a catering kitchen in the Twin Cities. “I have always been a community organizer and the first thing I thought of was where the elders and people with disabilities would go to eat. So I started giving food to elders in public housing and people with special needs. ... Since April 1, we’ve been giving 1,200 meals a day. We are now a community kitchen.” A week in, they needed funding to continue donating meals, so Kahin connected with Meals on Wheels, which now supports their outreach. Afro Deli also works with Frontline Foods to help feed healthcare workers and more recently, people cleaning up after protests. “Now we’re doing more business than we did when we had seatings, because of the amount of support we’re getting from the community. It is a hard time, but luckily we have overcome by doing community work and we see the rewards.” Abdirahman Kahin, Afro Deli & Grill, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, @afrodeli as told to @alison_spiegel (Photo credit: Abdirahman Kahin) ... less
  • Rose McGee, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, Golden Valley, Minnesota

    “I just had this calling to make sweet potato pies and bring them down there... read more
    “I just had this calling to make sweet potato pies and bring them down there, so I did,” says Rose McGee, who drove 30 pies to Missouri in 2014 to give to protestors following the death of Michael Brown. “I was getting frustrated with what I was seeing in Ferguson ... somewhat similar to where we are right now. That’s what inspired me.” That inspiration eventually became Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, a project in which McGee bakes pie and hosts conversations to strengthen community and provide comfort. “Since the first time we did it, I’ve taken pies to other places around the country—Charleston, Standing Rock and Pittsburg at the Tree of Life Synagogue ... But those were not here,” she says, referring to her home in Golden Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis. “This is right here, it’s burning now, so you’ve got to act now.” While her usual baking and discussion groups are on hold due to COVID-19, McGee is encouraging people to bake in their own kitchens, and to give pie to anyone who might need it. Last week, she also did two Facebook Live events. “One lady got so excited making two pies the other night, the gratification that she got from taking them to where she did and the way they were received, she got home and made four more. I’m estimating we’re making close to 200 pies a day, across the country and here locally.” — Rose McGee, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Sweet Potato Comfort Pie)
    ... less
  • Hussein Castillo, Garifuna Flava, Chicago, Illinois

    “A lot of businesses went under, every single one on our block except ours. In... read more
    “A lot of businesses went under, every single one on our block except ours. In black and brown communities, we get hit hardest and take longest to recover,” says Hussein Castillo, co-owner of Garifuna Flava, a Chicago restaurant that opened just before the 2008 recession. Garifuna cuisine is a product of the mixture of West African slaves and Arawak Indians who were exiled from British and French Caribbean islands and settled in coastal Central America in the 1700s. Castillo understands the frustration that triggered the protests, though he doesn’t condone the rioters. “Clearly, a vast majority of people were protesting things that hadn’t been handled for a very long time, maybe ever. At some point, things were going to boil over. I was speaking to some elders in the community about the ’68 Democratic Convention here and it was something similar. Each situation of injustice created protest, but through the years it’s building and building and building, and this last situation just exploded. When one aspect of society has people that aren’t treated justly or fairy, eventually we’re all going to feel the affects.” — Hussein Castillo, Garifuna Flava, Chicago, Illinois, as told to Albert Stumm. ... less
  • Sharon Richardson, Just Soul Catering and Reentry Rocks, New York City

    “Life is on its head right now. There’s so much happening all at once that... read more
    “Life is on its head right now. There’s so much happening all at once that it does make your heart feel heavy and the tears constantly run down your face,” says Sharon Richardson, executive director and CEO of Just Soul Catering, which hires only formerly incarcerated women, and Rentry Rocks, her nonprofit for the same population. “I’m a formerly incarcerated woman. I spent 20 years inside for a domestic violence case. I love cooking and I love people and I often say, you put those two things together and you get my catering company.” COVID-19 derailed her work, so instead she has focused on providing free meals for people in need. “We’ve fed Mount Sinai, New York Presbyterian, kids of essential workers, East New York and Brownsville community centers… You want to do so much, but being on the front lines means that you’re in a place where your life can be taken from you. And for us, as formerly incarcerated women, our lives were taken in a way that can’t be explained. Now we’re involved in a company that I created and we’re back on that front line again. But at the end of the day, it feels so rewarding to just be a part, and I think the world needs to hear that formerly incarcerated people are involved, too. We want to be honest. We want people to know we’re here. We’re present and we’re women.” Sharon Richardson, Just Soul Catering and Reentry Rocks, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Sharon Richardson) ... less
  • Douglass Williams, Mida, Boston, Massachusetts

    “Most people don’t know, but there’s a reason Wendy’s burgers are square. It’s because Dave... read more
    “Most people don’t know, but there’s a reason Wendy’s burgers are square. It’s because Dave Thomas doesn’t cut corners,” Douglass Williams, chef/owner of Boston’s award-winning Italian restaurant Mida, says of lessons learned at his first job. “It’s symbolism. That taught me that what you stand for can translate into the food in many different ways. And it stuck with me. I’ll never forget that,” says Williams, who was just named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs. “So for the last 20 years, working in Paris at the best restaurant in the world, working in New York at another best restaurant in the world, I’ve been trying to hold onto those values and bring that to Mida.” Williams’ values speak for themselves in his food and also in his team. “My staff, who’s made up of every culture—Irish, Dominican, Colombian, Jewish—they came to me with this sign [that says ‘Proud to be a Black Owned Business'], and they said, ‘Chef, this is what we did,’ and they put it up. I didn’t tell them to. But right now, in this time, it was great timing on their part. And people are going nuts over it in the best way. I couldn’t be more proud of them for doing that.” Douglass Williams, Mida, Boston, as told to Alison Spiegel. (Photo credit: Chris Churchill) ... less
  • Ty Brown, The Bergen, Brooklyn, New York

    “When we shout, ‘No justice, no peace,’ what you’re seeing today is the no peace... read more
    “When we shout, ‘No justice, no peace,’ what you’re seeing today is the no peace part of that mantra. Because there’s been plenty of examples of no justice,” says Ty Brown, owner of The Bergen, a wings-and-burgers takeout spot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. A lifelong activist, Brown became a youth organizer for the Rev. Al Sharpton at age 15 and later ran youth centers. Just weeks after opening The Bergen, the pandemic shut him down. “Covid changed a lot of stuff. But troubleshooting is my thing. Whatever it is, I’ll figure it out. Right away, we started a free lunch program (for the community). We did lunch bags with peanut butter jelly sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, chips and juice.” A few weeks later, he was diagnosed with COVID-19, but the free meals continued, even while he was hospitalized. Now recovered, his mind is on the protests. “This is what you get,” he says. “Police brutality, police misconduct is out of control. It’s out of control against one particular race of people. It’s out of control and it goes untouched and untalked about. Our new direction has to be toward lawmakers.” And he’s been urging people to use tools like ballotpedia.org to learn who represents them. “This is how we can move from rioting and talking to action.” Ty Brown, The Bergen as told to Alison Spiegel. (Photo credit: Renita Leonce) ... less
JULY 2020
CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL FOR J.K. ADAMS EBOARD + 3-KNIFE SET

$379.90 VALUE

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