Tag Archives: Common Threads

Common Threads, World Festival LA

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Throughout my career I have been very fortunate to work with many amazing charities. Most of my participation has been showing up at a scheduled time and cooking a specific dish for a specific amount of guests, occasionally donating myself to be auctioned off to cook a dinner.

In May of 2009 I was doing a photo shoot in Chicago for a Magazine that was featuring Canadian Chefs that worked outside of Canada. I was just finishing up when a lady walking her dog approached me and asked if I was a new chef in town. She introduced herself as Linda Novick, Executive Director of Common Threads and began to tell me about the mission of this charity. The minute she told me this was a chef driven charity that works with children to teach them how to cook, eat and shop healthier I knew I wanted to get involved.

My very first Common Threads experience was attending a lunch served by the Little Threads. What made this such a special lunch was the kids were cooking for their parents and to see how proud each parent was of their child was life changing. The typical Common Threads child comes from broken and low income homes and to listen to their stories on how learning how to cook has changed their lives was incredible. When speaking to a few of the parents at the lunch there was a common message, each parent spoke about how their child’s confidence had grown and the friendships that were made between the classmates.

What made Common Threads special to me was seeing how involved Chefs were in teaching classes and cooking at the fundraisers. These chefs were some of the most talented and successful chefs in the country and had restaurants that were full night after night but they still found time to work with the children.

Fast forward a couple of years and living back in Southern California, I learned very quickly that there is much more to creating a successful fundraising event than just showing up and cooking food for a couple of hours and then heading home. We started planning the very 1st LA World Festival in March and we capped it off with the main event on November 8th. A truly amazing night of great food and friends showing that Common Threads will succeed in LA.

Not only does Common Threads bring children together to create friendships and bonds that will probably last a life time, it also brings a group of chefs together to form a bond and a friendship that is so very important to the success of our business.

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National Fig Week

Today is the last day of National Fig Week – so we’re getting this post up just in time! Fresh figs are now scarce “up north”, but I did manage to find a few at Whole Foods and a couple of other fresh produce shops a few weeks ago. Figs are full of fibre, potassium, calcium and antioxidants. A perfectly ripe fig can be eaten on its own and should be one of the most delicious foods you’ve eaten! This ancient fruit is versatile, lending itself to both sweet and savoury dishes. This summer my daughter requested fig compote to accompany her brie and chicken sandwich, for which we used dried figs. At the end of August, Jason and I found gorgeous fresh figs at a Sunday market just outside of San Diego. Jason cooked crispy duck breast (fuelled again by a request made by my daughter!), which he simply finished with halved figs. Meanwhile, a friend of mine who is also a faithful reader of A Michelin and A Mom, posted a quick “what to do with a bunch of fresh figs” on our twitter. Jason answered with one word: jam. Following is Rachel’s foray into fig jam!

This past August I had my first real encounter with figs; not having given figs much thought nor had many opportunities to try them or cook with them. To think of all the lovely figs I missed out on! I was introduced to figs somewhat by accident when my landlord’s mother asked me if I would like some fresh figs as her neighbour’s tree was heavy with ripe figs. I was soon ladened with about 2lbs of very ripe figs. I knew I would not be able to eat them all before they were past their prime, so I took to twitter and requested help from Karlin and Jason. I took up Chef’s suggestion for making a jam, and set to “consult the Oracle” (google) for some further direction. The first thing that jumped out at me when reviewing a few recipes is that making fig jam would be very easy! I was surprised that most recipes called for adding no water (I haven’t made much jam in my life so I’m not sure if this is usually the case with other types of jam). The recipes called for varying amounts of sweetener (sugar or honey) and I went on the conservative side (about 1/2 c. of sugar for my 1.5 lbs of figs) as I knew the fruit had a great deal of natural sugars. I also added some balsamic to give the jam some pizazz. You know, because that’s how I roll. The yield for this batch was 2 to 3 cups (I’m guessing on this) and has been delicious with crackers and cheese, and especially with roast chicken, as recommended by Jason. Thanks again for the inspiration, A Michelin and A Mom!

Tomorrow night Jason is proudly part of Common Threads: World Festival Los Angeles. My brother is a member of the Common Threads Advisory Board, which is hosting a fabulous evening to benefit great kids in the L.A. area. The event’s page reads: “At the pristine setting of the London Hotel’s beautiful Hampton Court, guests will be able to stroll around the modern take on an English garden while delighting in mouth-watering bites…” Enjoy the evening and we look forward to a full report from Jason later this week.

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A Day with Common Threads LA

Class About to Start

First things first, my sister is enjoying some much deserved vacation with her family, so I am attempting to write this entry on my own without Karlin’s editing. So keep this in mind when you read on.
One of the great things about being a chef is that you are asked to participate in many events for many different organizations, but there is one that has meant so much to me and that is Common Threads. There are many reasons why this organization will always be close to my heart, but the main reason is the kids and the chance to make a difference in their lives.
Since moving back to San Diego a good part of my time has been working on building relationships with Chefs and Industry individuals trying to gain interest in Common Threads. Last week I finally had the chance to attend a cooking class with the kids in South Central, LA. I can not say enough about how amazing it is to see these kids get so excited about the class. They are not just cooking any old grub, they are learning about cooking healthy options. During this class the kids were to prepare 4 recipes Carrot, Apple and Ginger Juice, Carrot, Apple and Ginger Muffins, Vietnamese Satays, and Frutero Watermelon Salad. Not only are the kids learning about cooking they also learn about different countries, each class is created around the cuisine of a particular country.

Preparing Carrots for the Muffins and Juice

To see the teamwork and organizational skills that these kids show, would impress any seasoned Chef and I could not help but to step back and watch as the teams started to work on their recipes. (it was like any busy kitchen just before a busy dinner service, organized chaos)

Impressed at the team work

Not only did they work on making the recipes but they jumped in without hesitation when it was time to clean the dishes, I even heard a few of them say they actually liked cleaning dishes (at this point I asked myself if they felt the same at home when it was dish time?)

Everyone jumps in at dish time

To me there are 2 specific ingredients that make Common Threads so special, first is the Chefs that take the time out of their extremely busy schedules to spend with these kids and teach them a healthier way of cooking and eating. Second is the kids themselves, I am yet to see a student not show 100% interest in what they are learning and to me that is what makes it so easy for us Chefs to take the time out of our schedules to spend with them.

Chef Instructor Erin O'Brian

On my long drive back to San Diego from LA (yes it is true what they say about LA traffic) I could not help but ask myself how many of these kids go home and actually cook for their families or go on to become professional chefs, answers I might never know, but one thing I do know is that the time invested with the kids of Common Threads is only going to open up many doors for them in the future.

LA Traffic

I encourage everyone to take a moment to click on the Common Threads website link and read for yourself the impact this organization has on our youth.

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