A kitchen is a place of gathering and sustenance in many homes, whether for a quick bite over the sink on a day running late, or for a celebratory meal that carries into the evening. The kitchen at our 26 bed dormitory is no different. Good nutrition and healthy balanced meals are an important part of recovery, which is why we employ a fulltime cook, Renella Wilson, as well as a dietician, Shaynee Roper, who work in tandem to provide three wholesome daily meals to our clients. For some of our residents, their situations have kept them from adequate nutrition for years before coming to our program. The care and effort of our chef and dietitian help restore their nutritional health, but a chef with an outdated kitchen faces a higher challenge.
The commercial kitchen in our dormitory had not been updated since its installation in the early 1990’s and needed to be brought up to date and standard. This meant completely gutting the existing kitchen. Some of the installments, like the walk in refrigerator and freezer were brand new additions built from scratch, others like the stove top and hood, flooring, and cabinets, were completely torn out and rebuilt to better aid our cook in feeding our residents. Throughout all of September and into the first two weeks of October, The Women’s Home’s residential kitchen was closed for much needed updating and renovations. It reopened reborn with new fixtures, appliances and storage.
These renovations were made possible with help from foundations, several organizations, and committed volunteers. Corporate chef and kitchen equipment specialist Neil Doherty created our new kitchen’s layout after doing a walk through tour of our transitional housing facility’s commercial kitchen. Neil is the chief corporate chef for Sysco’s Houston based international headquarters. Sysco, is the preeminent international commercial food supplier to the hospitality industry and connected us with equipment vendors best suited to our needs. A $75,000 grant we secured from The Vale-Asche Foundation provided for the purchase of all new appliances and fixtures. A $10,000 donation from HomeAid completed the renovations. After the renovations completion Chef Neil trained our cook to use this state of the art equipment to serve our residents to the fullest with the new space. Art Chavez, a senior principal at the Houston branch of architecture firm Page, provided the plans necessary for securing our building permits.
In the month and a half the kitchen was closed for renovations, we turned to local restaurants to help feed our residents with our 30 Meals, 30 Nights campaign. Restaurants throughout the neighborhood contributed healthy full dinners for our thirty residents in the dormitories, making the wait for the new kitchen’s completion a little smoother.